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Rent is so high in San Francisco that Im a engineer and I live in a van

By zzyzzx follow zzyzzx   2015 Oct 17, 10:28am 23,832 views   69 comments   watch   nsfw   quote   share    


http://qz.com/524138/rent-is-so-high-in-san-francisco-that-im-a-software-engineer-and-i-live-in-a-van/

Rent is so high in San Francisco that I’m a software engineer and I live in a van

About a year ago, I was having lunch with a friend when I made a throwaway comment: “Have you seen the rent in San Francisco? If I get a job in the Bay Area, I’ll totally live in a van.”

As I sit in darkness writing this, I’m trying to keep my typing quiet, lest a real inhabitant of the neighborhood I’m parked in should walk by and wonder about the sounds coming from the rusty bus loitering on their block. Yes, you understood that correctly: Today, I work in a multi-million dollar office complex, and I live in a van.

This summer, after receiving a job offer in Silicon Valley, I went on Craigslist and began sifting through housing listings: “verrrrrryyy cheap bedroom ;),” “great deal on rent!” A single room with a shared bathroom? Two thousand per month on the low-end. A small studio apartment, you ask? If your startup wasn’t recently bought for seven figures, forget about it.

I perked up after finding a listing for $1,000 per month. Now this could work. Clicking through to the details section however revealed the offer was for a single bunk in a room with eight people, a set-up referred to as a “hacker house” by an (evil) marketing genius.

Even if I was to spend the huge majority of my salary on rent, I knew I would likely still be in a grim living situation, resenting every penny I handed over that could have gone towards paying back my student loans. And as a software engineer, I’m one of the lucky ones! Imagine those who aren’t lucky enough to be on the tech payroll.

Anyway, three weeks ago I took the equivalent of three months’ rent and bought an old red bus. It’s a 1969 VW camper van with a hole in the floor and a family of spiders that has more of a right to be here than I do (sleeping in your car on public land in California is illegal).

But with the help of Ikea and an army of cleaning supplies I was able to get the bus into livable condition.

From certain angles, it even passes for a tiny, $1,000-per-month bedroom.

Overall, I’m proud of the way my project turned out. But of course this living situation wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t already have a job that feeds me and allows me to shower and do laundry at work. I also have a network of friends who are ready to step in should a crisis emerge and offer me a temporary bed. And I am a young, white woman, which gives me the immense privilege of pulling up a creepy van and parking it without being harassed. People don’t report me; neither do they assume I’m a vagrant. They smile and ask if I need anything.

There are many people who are forced to live in their cars because they really cannot afford to live in the Bay Area. I am not technically one of them, and in doing this by choice I am inevitably appropriating their hardships. However, I am also saving hard, trying to pay off my debts, and learning a few invaluable life skills—like carpentry and how to be a fairly competent mechanic—in the process. Also, I get to flood social media with updates that basically equate to “Ha. Told you I’d do it. Look at me now. I’m in a bus. You’re going to have to pay up on the $5 bet you made that I would never go through with it.”

Article does have pictures.

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30   CovfefeButDeadly   ignore (5)   2015 Oct 21, 4:00pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

FYI you can still bang Tenderloin hookers in your posh van.

Hardly seems necessary to move to Thailand.

31   Rin   ignore (3)   2015 Oct 21, 4:19pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

dodgerfanjohn says

FYI you can still bang Tenderloin hookers in your posh van.

Hardly seems necessary to move to Thailand.

Yeah right, no guy in SF's Tenderloin is getting the following ...

Now that's "Tenderloin"!

32   Heraclitusstudent   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 21, 4:22pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Straw Man says

Heraclitusstudent says

A 23-year-old Google employee lives in a truck in the company's parking lot

He's into that celibacy...err... purity thing I guess...

He probably also figured out how to save dates money by going virtual.

33   CornPoptheOriginalGangster   ignore (5)   2015 Oct 21, 4:36pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

High SF Rents are a Zionist plot to destroy the Bay Area and move Google HQ to Tel Aviv.

34   Booger   ignore (5)   2015 Oct 21, 5:16pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

dodgerfanjohn says

You can afford $2K a month on $90-100K. Your take home will be ~4200-4600 per month(even putting $100-200/paycheck into a 401K). Thats even with all the CA taxes.

So meh to someone making $120K as a single person claiming they can't afford $2K a month rent.

$100-$200/month into a 401K is way too low! That, and maybe after taxes they can afford 2K/month rent, but there will be almost nothing left.

35   New Renter   ignore (11)   2015 Oct 21, 9:24pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Rin says

Yeah right, no guy in SF's Tenderloin is getting the following ...

My guess is any guy in the SF tenderloin can get something *kinda* like that without spending a dime.

(Normally I'd normally include a poignant image but in this case I'll pass)

36   ThreeBays   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 22, 10:40pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Any single engineer at Google can afford $2k rent. Don't forget bonuses & stocks, and free meals, transportation, gym, laundry. Majority of income after rent is disposable income.

37   Heraclitusstudent   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 23, 12:31pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Average apartment rent within 10 miles of San Francisco, CA is $3512.
One bedroom apartments in San Francisco rent for $2965 a month on average.
Two bedroom apartment rents average $3853.

39   Iranian_Oil_Burse   ignore (6)   2015 Oct 23, 2:10pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

thunderlips11 says

Solution:

They already have projects in SF.

40   curious2   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 23, 2:17pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

"Real estate prices have doubled in the last few years, a tent in the backyard can rent for $900/month, foreign investors are driving up prices, evictions and rent hikes are everywhere, people are commuting longer than ever, the middle class is disappearing, empty investment homes are everywhere, and locals are leaving in record numbers."

41   John Bailo   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 23, 5:02pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Silicon Valley.

A place where supposedly the greatest engineering minds of a generation congregate.

They can make cars that self drive.

They can build trains that go 300mph.

The can build computers that think.

But they can't build affordable homes for themselves.

So how smart can they really be?

42   Heraclitusstudent   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 23, 6:49pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

curious2 says

"Real estate prices have doubled in the last few years, a tent in the backyard can rent for $900/month, foreign investors are driving up prices, evictions and rent hikes are everywhere, people are commuting longer than ever, the middle class is disappearing, empty investment homes are everywhere, and locals are leaving in record numbers."

This Deleon guy makes me laugh. He thinks it will double again because brilliant people from Google will come and buy everything.
But the truth is that there aren't enough Google couples getting $300+K to buy all of silicon valley.
The silicon valley is not made of rich people from Google. It's not made of finance guys getting millions in bonuses. It's made of many young engineers trying their lucks in startups. And these engineers get $100-120K.
Right now all other people earning less are being forced to realize it's not for them and out progressively.
Yeah young engineers can pay $2000 in rent. Yeah they can rent bunk beds, tents, garages, sleep in trucks on parkings.
But let it double again and these people will be forced to put 1 and 1 together and get the hell out too.
And startups with them.
And here goes the SV.

43   Strategist   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 23, 7:21pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

John Bailo says

Silicon Valley.

A place where supposedly the greatest engineering minds of a generation congregate.

They can make cars that self drive.

They can build trains that go 300mph.

The can build computers that think.

But they can't build affordable homes for themselves.

So how smart can they really be?

Affordable homes were already invented by our ancestors a long time ago. Mud huts...Straw huts....Caves....tents. Problem is....we are too picky.

44   RealEstateIsBetterThanStocks   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 23, 10:20pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

she probably has a $300K student loan and a coke addiction.

Google is overvalued. They are going to be another Yahoo in a few years.

And I agree with someone above...salaries are just 2/3 of total income for SV engineers.

45   hanera   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 24, 12:09am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Strategist says

Affordable homes were already invented by our ancestors a long time ago. Mud huts...Straw huts....Caves....tents. Problem is....we are too picky.

Not so fast. Autonomous vehicle is self-aware not just self-driving. Yes, you get it. Is HOME.

46   lostand confused   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 24, 5:19am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

What happened to the east bay-Hayward should still be cheap??

47   Reality   ignore (5)   2015 Oct 24, 1:01pm     ↓ dislike (1)   quote   flag        

Foreign parents buying houses in the US for their children to live while attending colleges and graduate schools in the US is a late cycle phenomenon. They are little more than speculators counting on the houses to go up in price (minus transaction cost) more than the rent cost during their children's stay. It happened before, e.g. in New England in the late 1980's and the beginning of 1990's, mostly Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese parents; the real estate crash followed bankrupted the Bank of New England. Oil Sheikhs sent their kids here for decades before 9-11. There is nothing new about newly minted Indian parents and their kids. These are all late-cycle behaviors.

It's part and parcel of Dollar Repatriation. What it means is that you will be looking at a Rupee devaluation ahead.

48   MMR   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 25, 9:30pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

mell says

The schools here are shit, all of them, the most expensive ones barely compete with some across the pond

I enjoy most of your posts mell, but the schools here aren't shit compared to the schools in India. If the schools in India are so great, why the hell do they need so much after school tutoring to get top scores on exams? Also, a lot of people of school-going age in India and China aren't even getting an education.

Really, most of the teachers here or in India are terrible. And for those who are self motivated (i.e. the people in asian dominated schools), school is probably a waste of time and they would be better off following an online curriculum with their parents overseeing their education, which is essentially what these parents already do anyway.

cloud15 says

And now they are here ,working for these Tech companies and they can certainly afford these prices.

A lot of the H1B workers live in dilapidated apartments like the one I lived in in Fremont, presumably to be close to BART. Many people share apartments also if they are single.

cloud15 says

you obviously need access to best education , best tuitions to get into the best Engineering and Medical schools in India and then finally are able to afford doing MS etc over here

That's not just true for people from India or China; that is true for Asians and Indian Americans also.....Also, the trend now is shifting from people coming here for MS in favor of them coming for their undergrad studies.

Several of my cousins came from India in the last 4 years: One went to Northwestern on a scholarship and left because he couldn't grasp that being a 'topper' Bishop Cotton Boys school in Bangalore and bragging about it isn't going to impress his mostly American classmates who are almost as good as him while not wasting time on garbage 'tuitions'. The American counterparts balanced much more activities in high school than him and scored only 50-100 pts less on average.

His brother picked Purdue instead of UCSD because thats where his friends were going. Another cousin is a freshman at Vanderbilt...Another cousin is at NYU on the tennis team after training every summer at Bolletieri.

Another cousin graduated from University of Chicago

Part of the reason why others are coming to the US for undergrad is that the archaic Indian system is overwhelmed by the volume of applicants: With about half of India’s 1.2 billion people under the age of 25, and with the ranks of the middle class swelling, the country’s handful of highly selective universities are overwhelmed.

As a result: Indians are now the second-largest foreign student population in America, after the Chinese, with almost 105,000 students in the United States in the 2009-10 academic year, the last for which comprehensive figures were available

American universities have now become “safety schools” for increasingly stressed and traumatized Indian students and parents, who complain that one fateful event — the final high school examination — can make or break a teenager’s future career.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/world/asia/squeezed-out-in-india-students-turn-to-united-states.html?_r=0

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/education/news/Enrolment-of-Indian-students-in-US-up-by-28-Report/articleshow/45162920.cms

cloud15 says

but mostly , the system is rigged and to crack into best schools you already need to be RICH and most probably sons/daughters of folks who have been sitting on some serious cash

Again, true here for Chinese and Indians; being a lower middle class person of Asian Indian origin (such as myself) and coming from a rural place was mostly a disadvantage. I tell my dad all the time, I would have been better off growing up in India if med school was the goal. The standards weren't as high 20 years back as they are now.

mell says

Best thing you can do is join an Asian-dominated school.

Best thing for an asian is to enroll in a mostly white school and kick ass or homeschool. When every asian at your school has the same scores as you and are all applying to ivies, the most likely scenario is that your application would get lost in the mix.....

cloud15 says

but mostly , the system is rigged

most of my upper caste relatives agree with this, except it is them who whine about having to pay donations for their kids to study medicine in India because of the quotas for BC, Scheduled Castes etc.

Most of the upper caste complainers have plenty of money, which, in many cases is ill-gotten.

49   Strategist   ignore (2)   2015 Oct 25, 9:42pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Ironman says

Call it KKKrazy says

All over the US there are good drinkable wines

Yep, you of all people, should know... You've probably sampled all of them, this week alone...

-

I heard there was a shortage of cheap wines. Now I know why.

50   zzyzzx   ignore (1)   2015 Oct 26, 7:48am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Call it KKKrazy says

Dude, wine snobs are fucking snobs, so fuck em', but there are no world class wines being produced in Baltimore county. All over the US there are good drinkable wines for good value and I'm sure Baltimore county can produce its share. Even the Texas Hill country makes good varietals worth drinking. But comparing Baltimore county to Napa is like comparing Outback Steakhouse to The French Laundry. It's one YOU should get over.

It was someone visiting me from northern CA, who has been to a shitload of wineries in CA who said that the Baltimore wine was one of the best he had ever had. I am not a wine drinker (I am a beer drinker, when I drink) and all I can say is that I normally hate wine, but I really liked the wine I had at this place. One thing that I am sure is true is that the wineries in CA are probably a LOT bigger than the one in Baltimore County that I went to.

51   mell   ignore (3)   2015 Oct 26, 8:08am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

MMR says

If the schools in India are so great, why the hell do they need so much after school tutoring to get top scores on exams? Also, a lot of people of school-going age in India and China aren't even getting an education.

Really, most of the teachers here or in India are terrible. And for those who are self motivated (i.e. the people in asian dominated schools), school is probably a waste of time and they would be better off following an online curriculum with their parents overseeing their education, which is essentially what these parents already do anyway.

I should have made myself clearer. I cannot speak for India, but compared to Europe the Universities are comparable (though much more expensive) and the elementary and high schools are mostly worse. The main reason you see more talent over here is because you can make more money, so a lot of talented Europeans come over here after their education. You are likely right wrt India, but in Europe you fare much better education and money-wise before you start working, that dynamic only changes afterwards because wages are more compressed over there and taxes generally higher, so many highly skilled/educated singles then take their business to the US after graduation. Of course there are prestigious universities here in the US for medicine or other science that are top-notch, but the same goes for Europe and if you compare tuition vs outcome/gain it just doesn't pay to shell out the money to study in the US (unless of course laws and regulations absolutely require you to do so and you want/need to practice in the US or you don't have the opportunity to study for free/less in Europe).

52   zzyzzx   ignore (1)   2015 Oct 26, 9:02am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Call it KKKrazy says

That's my point. The enjoyment is more important than the snob factor.

I agree with this. It was just something to do after visiting someplace in Baltimore City that took less time to complete when I had expected. I.E. - filler material, even though the winery was better than the other place we had visited earlier in the day.

53   cloud15   ignore (0)   2015 Oct 26, 7:05pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Even more bad news

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Morgan-Stanley-on-San-Francisco-rents-It-ll-take-6589457.php

SFBA's new job vs new construction ratio is 9.4. Even if jobs gorwth cut in half, it is still slightly favorable.

Morgan Stanley on San Francisco rents: It'll take 'more than a mild slowdown' for rents to drop
http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Morgan-Stanley-on-San-Francisco-rents-It-ll...

While the tech sector may be slowing down, that won't stop the surge in Bay Area rents.

In a note to clients on Friday, Morgan Stanley analyst Vance Edelson said, "it will take more than a mild slowdown in tech activity to break down favorable supply demand fundamentals in the Bay Area."

That's favorable to homeowners and landlords, not renters or new buyers.

And, the kicker: "We think supply/demand would remain favorable even if current Bay Area job growth forecasts were cut in half." (Emphasis ours.)

The Bay Area's rent growth is a direct result of a shortage of housing to match the (largely tech-driven) increase in jobs, Morgan Stanley wrote. Looking at construction data, the new apartment supply is expected to increase by only 15,000 units in 2016-2017, they said.

Right now, the forecasts point to 145,000 new jobs in the Bay Area. 145,000 new jobs versus 15,000 new units is a ratio of 9.4x. That's terrible if you're hoping rents will drop.

Morgan Stanley calculated that in low home-ownership markets, like the Bay Area, a traditional ratio is four jobs for every apartment, or a 4x ratio. At that ratio, the market is in something like equilibrium.

In 2015, the job/supply ratio was 8.9x, according to the note.

So it's getting worse, not better.

The wild card is what happens to tech job growth. If the tech sector slows, there could be fewer than 145,000 new jobs created.

But there needs to be "more than a mild slowdown" for rents to drop — even if the estimate of new jobs is cut in half, the market will remain favorable to owners:
Morgan stanley

54   mell   ignore (3)   2015 Oct 26, 9:47pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

cloud15 says

Even more bad news

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Morgan-Stanley-on-San-Francisco-rents-It-ll-take-6589457.php

SFBA's new job vs new construction ratio is 9.4. Even if jobs gorwth cut in half, it is still slightly favorable.

Morgan Stanley on San Francisco rents: It'll take 'more than a mild slowdown' for rents to drop

http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Morgan-Stanley-on-San-Francisco-rents-It-ll...

Morgan Stanley went bankrupt in 2008 spouting the same bullshit and got bailed out by the Fed. At least they are not as evil as GS and actually (partially) believe the shit they spout while GS actively trades against their client recommendations (suckers! muppets!).. This time is different! ;)

55   zzyzzx   ignore (1)   2015 Oct 27, 10:45am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/21/googlers-living-at-google-tiny-spaces-probably-no-sex.html

Ben Discoe, former UI programmer. Lived at Google from October 2011 to November 2012.
Ben, the longest-dwelling Googler that we know about, was caught between alimony and payments on a farm in Hawaii. He bought a 1990 GMC Vandura van for $1,800. Discoe says the van had been modified by a "burner," which is a polite term for someone who attends Burning Man. He lived in the van for over a year. And in case you thought Google's security team was slacking off, Discoe says they were onto him from relatively early on: "Once they determined that the guy in the mysteriously parked white van was just an eccentric Googler and not the Unabomber, they never came by again."

Matthew J. Weaver, former ecologist. Lived at Google from July 2005 to August 2006.
Matthew says he lived in an RV near the US-101N onramp on a dare for 54 weeks, throwing parties and generally having a good time. This was before smartphones became a thing (and wireless Internet wasn't available where he was), so we can only assume he read a lot and thought deeply about why he was living in an RV at the office complex where he worked.

Brandon Oxendine, former designer. Lived at Google from June 28 to September 22, 2013.
Brandon lived in a subterranean parking garage in a Volvo station wagon that sported an Ikea twin mattress in the back and blacked-out windows. He then moved in with a friend in San Francisco's Mission District, where he presumably saw sunlight.

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