Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on October 17, 2019
Report: SF adding equal numbers of high- and low-wage jobs, but not nearly enough low-wage housing

Photo: jcomp/Freepik

San Francisco is adding new jobs for high-wage workers and low-wage workers at about the same rate. But when it comes to adding new housing for each group, low-wage workers are getting the short end of the stick.

That's the conclusion of the city's first-ever Jobs-Housing Fit report, released yesterday by District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar. The report breaks down the income levels of the new jobs the city has added in the past two years, as well as the number of new housing units needed to meet each income group's job growth. 

Its takeaway is simple: while San Francisco is gaining high- and low-wage jobs at similar rates, moderate-wage jobs are stagnating. And the city isn’t building anywhere near enough housing for all the levels of workers it's adding, with low-wage workers facing the biggest shortage.

“I called for the Jobs-Housing Fit Analysis because far too much focus has been paid to simplistically increasing housing supply generally, without considering who we are building for,” Mar said at a press conference yesterday. 

Using data from California's Employment Development Department (EDD), the report finds that a rising tide of high-paying San Francisco jobs, especially in tech, hasn't lifted all boats.

From 2016 to 2018, the number of new jobs paying 120% or more of the area median income (AMI) — $103,450 for a single person, or $147,800 for a family of four — rose 14%.

Low-wage jobs were also on the rise: those paying 80% or less of the area median income ($68,950 or less for a single person, and $98,500 or less for a family of four) soared 11%, nearly matching the numbers of high-wage jobs.

But the growth of jobs in the middle — those earning roughly $70-100K for a single person, or $100-145K for a family of four — actually declined slightly.

High-wage and low-wage jobs are growing at similar rates, while moderate-wage jobs aren't growing at all. | Visualization: Hoodline

And even as low-wage jobs boom in San Francisco, wages for some low-wage workers are declining. According to EDD, the average Personal Care and Service worker in San Francisco and Silicon Valley saw their wages dip 6% in the last two years, to just $13.29 per hour.

It's a familiar story to Erika Chavez, a low-wage domestic worker with La Colectiva, San Francisco's housecleaning collective for immigrant women.

“The economic boom in the city doesn’t just rely on tech workers, it relies on people like me to make food, clean homes and take care of elders,” she said. 

And increasingly, those low-wage workers are moving out of the city.

From 2010 to 2017, the report shows, San Francisco's high-wage households — single people making $100K or more, or families making $150K or more —  grew 44%, from 137,687 households to 198,458 households. 

At the same time, the population of low-wage workers — single people making $70K or less, and families earning under $100K — declined from 146,152 households to 112,186 households, a 23% drop. 

Moderate-income households (earning roughly $70-100K for a single person, or $100-145K for a family of four) are the city's smallest constituency. But their numbers still dropped, by about 8% from 2010 to 2017. 

Net high-wage households in San Francisco has increased while low wage-households decreased. | Visualization: Hoodline

The mass departure of low- and moderate-wage households from San Francisco is likely due to the exponential increase in housing prices in that period, driven by insufficient supply as job growth soared. 

From 2010 to 2018, the city added 210,000 jobs, and just 24,671 new housing units — an astounding 8.5 jobs for every housing unit constructed.

According to Zumper, the "fair market rate" for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is currently hovering near $3,700.

If they aren't already lucky enough to be living in a rent-stabilized unit, low-wage households rely on the construction of what's known as “affordable housing” to find a space they can afford.

Subsidized by the government or private donors, affordable housing is provided at costs affordable to low- and moderate-income households. And so far, the city isn't planning to construct nearly enough of it to match future job growth for low-wage workers. 

Keyser-Marston Associates estimates that 18,229 units affordable to low-wage households will need to be built between 2016 and 2026 in order to match projected job growth. But only 974 units have been built so far — just 5 percent of the amount needed. 

By comparison, the city will need to add 23,205 higher-cost units to match the projected growth in high-wage jobs through 2026. So far, 9,183 units have been built, about 40 percent of the amount needed. 

There are currently an additional 18,627 units of market-rate housing in the pipeline. Assuming these units get built by 2026, San Francisco will meet its high-wage housing goals.

But with only 1,626 affordable housing units in the pipeline, the city is currently set to fall nearly 15,000 units short of what it needs to accommodate the low-wage workers of 2026. 

San Francisco doesn't have money set aside to build anything approaching the needed quantity of affordable housing, and how it will secure that funding is currently unclear.

The city has a long way to go towards meeting housing needs for projected low-wage job growth through 2026. | Visualization: Hoodline

Still, affordable housing advocates insist the Jobs-Housing Fit analysis is a critical first step. Mar plans to introduce legislation that requires the report to be produced annually by the city's Budget & Legislative Office. 

“This is the information that we need to build the housing that we need for all workers who want to live here,” said Conny Ford, a board member for a coalition of worker-led organizations, including La Colectiva.

“We don’t hate market-rate housing," she said. "We’re glad there’s market-rate housing … we just want an economy that includes all of us.”