Too Expensive to Live: City Workers Can't Afford to Rent in San Francisco

Too Expensive to Live: City Workers Can't Afford to Rent in San Francisco

A growing number of San Francisco city workers can’t afford to pay their rent. The latest tech boom has caused rents to skyrocket, displacing hundreds of middle class workers.

“Maybe you could find somebody who works for Google or YouTube, and they could take the larger room and that would allow you to stay,” are the words that were uttered to a San Francisco public employee by her landlord, according to SFgate.com.

Claudia Flores, a 36-year-old professional who has worked in the City Planning Department for eight years, is just one example of the fastest-growing gap between rich and poor in the nation. She was booted from a room she shared in a three-bedroom Mission District condo, where she was paying $1,000 a month – a figure that is virtually non-existent according to KQED, the PBS station in San Francisco. 

The rent for the entire place, which is not covered by rent control, was going up to $6,300 a month and was given, instead, to “two guys in their 20s who work for Apple,” Sgfate.com writes. If she made more money, Flores says she would have been able to stay and not be forced to hop between one friend’s apartment while waiting for a space to open up at another’s next month.

City workers already earn more on average than their counterparts at other Bay Area governments, according to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey. But despite the fact that city workers have gotten back to the level they started at when the recession struck, for people like Flores, $77,000 a year simply isn’t enough considering how costs are rising faster than revenue.

Mayor Lee’s administration has been negotiating contracts for about 24,000 employees from different unions or groups as he tries to juggle San Francisco’s long-term financial stability amid uncertainty about the tech surge’s longevity. The city already faces a $66 million deficit in the next fiscal year and $133 million for fiscal 2015-16 unless next year’s budget is balanced with more than one-time fixes. According to the city’s Department of Human Resources, the majority of the raise requests, which have been made by unions, which cover about 20,000 workers, would cost the city an extra $279 million over the life of the contracts, which range from one to three years.

On Monday, an agreement will be announced for the construction of nearly 1,700 low-and-middle income apartments and condos in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley by Mayor Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen. Construction for the project, which is expected to generate about 2,800 construction jobs over the next 10 years and provide housing for 3,800 residents, could begin sometime next year. Flores happens to be working on this construction project. “The big irony is not being able to afford to live in the city you work for,” she said.

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