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San Francisco, San Jose have lowest eviction rates nationwide, says study

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We too were surprised

An aerial photo of San Francisco facing the Castro, with the Tenderloin in the foreground. Photo by Karlis Dambrans/Shutterstock

Rental site ApartmentList released a study Thursday breaking down eviction data in major metros across the U.S. and came up with some good, albeit startling, news for the Bay Area: San Jose and San Francisco had the lowest and second-lowest eviction rates nationwide, respectively.

ApartmentList economist Chris Salviati acknowledges that this seems unexpected, saying:

Although displacement of long-time renters is a sensitive and high-profile topic in fast-gentrifying markets such as the Bay Area, these metros actually tend to have lower overall eviction rates.

The list of metros with the lowest eviction rates contains locations well-known for their lack affordability, such as San Jose, San Francisco, Boston and New York. While this result may seem counterintuitive, it seems to be driven by the fact that the most expensive areas also tend to have the best job opportunities.

To reach this conclusion, Salviati referenced ApartmentLists’s annual renter survey (which drew roughly 41,000 responses) as well as the self-reported rental history of ApartmentList users.

The results found that 1.2 percent of renters in San Jose had experienced an eviction, along with 1.6 percent of San Francisco renters, the lowest rates of any city studied.

Technically, this is good news, at least relative to being number one in the same report. For the curious, the highest nationwide was Memphis, TN, with 6.1 percent. The national average came in at 3.3 percent.

Photo by Sergio TB/Shutterstock

Trying to boil eviction down to numbers always runs the risk of seeming glib or ignoring the ramifications of the issue, though.

For example, according to a Stanford student’s analysis, between 2011 and 2016 landlords served 8,859 eviction notices in San Francisco.

That doesn’t sound like so much out of more than 220,000 renter-occupied units.

But the point of that study was to show that the number of evictions rose every year during that period—and indeed, every year since 2009 all the way up until the San Francisco rent board’s most recent Annual Eviction Report last March, which recorded the first year over year drop in evictions nearly a decade.

(Note that technically these statistics measure attempts to evict—the actual outcome of those disputes is a separate matter.)

Not surprisingly, the eviction rate always seems to trend up around the same time the housing market does—and go back down whenever the market cools off.

Which means that the most pertinent information might be not how many people get evicted, but when and why landlords decide to serve the papers, which isn’t always reflected in the numbers.