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The Convoluted Metric That Claims SF Is Actually Affordable

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San Francisco is hardly an affordable place to live by any measure, except a new one from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that assesses something called location affordability. Instead of just looking at housing prices, location affordability factors in things like transportation costs, employment access, median income, and household density. If you can follow all of the arrows in the graphic (and don't worry if you can't, because neither can we) you end up with an estimate of the percentage of income a family would need to spend on the combined cost of housing and transportation in a given location. By this measure, living in San Francisco is supposedly pretty affordable.


A location affordability map from HUD estimates that the average cost of housing plus transportation for a median-income family of four people would be $33,189. However, the estimate assumes that this family would only spend $23,155 on housing every year, which seems very low in a city where the median rental price tops $3,000.

What does seem reasonable is that San Francisco's location affordability compares somewhat favorably to areas with less walkability and fewer public transit options. In some of the tony areas of Silicon Valley, where cars are necessary and housing is expensive, location affordability dips considerably. It drops even further out in areas near Stockton, where median income is much lower, housing is still quite pricey, and transportation costs are significant. Despite San Francisco's transportation advantages, we're not about to start calling this city cheap.

· What Does It Really Cost to Live in San Francisco? [CityLab]
· Location Affordability [US Department of Housing and Urban Development/US Department of Transportation]
· Are You Sitting Down? SF's Median Rent Rate is $3,200/Month [Curbed SF]