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San Francisco rents down, but still highest in the country

We’ve danced this dance before

As we come up on the midway point in October, a bit more rent data trickles in, and 2016’s year-over-year declines continue to add up, albeit it slowly and incrementally. Rental site Abodo estimates that between this month and last, the city’s median price for a single bed apartment ticked down by nearly $223, down to about $3,492/month.

(Oddly, Abodo’s monthly rent report doesn’t actually provide a dollar figure but instead just calculates the percentage of the monthly decline. But it’s easy to do the month once you check previous figures.)

Note that Abodo’s data sample (i.e., only those San Francisco apartments listed on Abodo) seems to be pretty volatile. This month saw a six percent decline and so did last month, but the month before that was a sudden, six percent spike. Of the popular rental sites who provide a monthly reports, it tends to waffle the most.

Still, averaging Abodo’s average with those of the sites who reported rents earlier in October yields a figure of about $3,164. If that seems low, it’s because it includes Trulia’s median, which is always an outlier much lower than the others.

If we swap it out for RentJungle’s figure (which is usually a bit higher than the others, but also lags a few weeks behind), the median shakes out to $3,453. If we add our own (highly unscientific) survey of Craigslist to that, it’s $3,226. Even with seasonal contractions factored in, that’s a pretty significant contraction from the same time last year.

(ApartmentList, for example, recorded a site median of $3,605 for October 2015.)

So that’s great news, except that it isn’t really, because with the narrow exception of Manhattan, these are still the highest rents in America, and probably will keep being so for the foreseeable future.

We’re certainly not going to complain if rents keep going down. But there’s a limit to how much enthusiasm most people can summon for the idea that the $3,400/month for an apartment is any kind of good news, and we’re going on a year of this now.

But maybe, with an election less than a month away giving voters a chance to weigh in on housing policy and many thousands of new units in the pipeline, we can at least look ahead to 2017 with some hope of more significant relief.