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One Third of SF Renters Don't Have Enough Space

And over half of parents

San Francisco is getting crowded. Not just the streets and the buses, but the actual homes themselves.

Planning Department and fire officials warn that some neighborhoods, most notably the Mission, Tenderloin, and Chinatown, see far more tenants per unit than they were designed for. "As many as six or seven" in a single apartment, according to the fire chief.

This is a potential hazard, but it’s also a day-to-day pain for people in those residences. Rental site Trulia released another in its constant stream of housing studies this week. The most recent looks at just how packed American homes have become.

The report draws mainly from the annual U.S. Census Community Survey to see how many households make do with fewer bedrooms than they need. Married couples were assumed to need one room, plus, ideally, an additional room for each child. Unmarried adults living together were assumed to need two rooms.

A note on that methodology: Yes, it does seem almost quaint to assume that unmarried adults co-habitating necessarily sleep in different beds.

But since the census doesn’t distinguish platonic roommates from unwed couples (how would you even phrase that question?), we’ll have to call the difference marginal.

Nationally, 14.7 percent of homes had more inhabitants than rooms for them to comfortably inhabit. In San Francisco, that number is 22.4 percent. That’s a stark gap, but considering our reputation for hyper density, actually not as bad as you might expect.

The real kick in the lease comes when you shift your eyes a couple of columns to the right and see that the figure skyrockets to 33.5 percent if you look exclusively at renters. And it’s 54.9 percent for renters with kids.

This figure is remarkably consistent across the Bay Area: 33.2 percent of renters in the South Bay are in the same situation, as well as 30.7 percent in the Easy Bay. About two thirds of San Franciscans are renters, and about one third of those don’t have enough to rent.

Depending on who you ask, the average San Francisco household enjoys a median income of over $78,000. But the average rental household makes less than $60,000. (Note that the Census survey lumps some peninsula cities into these figures as well.)

Median household size in San Francisco is 2.3 persons. The city presently has between 380,000 and 391,000 units of housing, virtually all of them occupied. According to Trulia, the number of households with children who are living crunched for space has jumped 2.7 percent for renters in the last five years, versus a mere 0.1 percent for homeowners.

All of this seems to pose an unfortunate solution to one of the city’s abiding mysteries. How in the world are San Francisco’s remaining working class making ends meet? Apparently, by learning to live very small.