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In San Francisco 38.5% of adults need a roommate

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That’s up from the 2010 U.S. Census report

A photo of the twin Lumina towers in San Francisco.
Sometimes you have to double up.
Photo by GooDween123/Shutterstock

The latest American Community Survey—a yearly estimate of the demographics of cities conducted by the U.S. Census—continues to reveal alarming things about the state of renting in San Francisco.

Real estate site Zillow surveyed data collected by the census to figure out how many Americans now live in “doubled up households.”

“We define a doubled-up household as one in which at least two working-age, unmarried or un-partnered adults live together,” according Zillow. “For example, a 25-year-old son living with [...] parents would constitute a doubled-up household, as would two 23-year-old roommates who are not partnered to each other.”

Chances are that people in doubled-up homes are living together mostly out of economic necessity.

While not everyone living with roommates or family does so because they have no choice, a stark increase in such living arrangements indicates people are having trouble making ends meet on their own.

  • Nationally, 30.2 percent of adults lived with roommates in 2016. That’s up from 26.7 during the last full census in 2010.
  • In San Francisco, it’s a more startling 38.5 percent. That’s a spike from 35.3 percent in 2010, a smaller increase than the national trend. But going back to 2005, the number of dual households in the city rose drastically, up from 26.9 percent.
  • That’s more than half of all renters in the city. Not mentioned in the Zillow report is that the 38.5 percent figure is equivalent to more than 60.9 percent of the city’s total renter population in the most recent ACS. (We should note that not every San Franciscan living with roommates or family are necessarily renters.)
Photo by PRILL/Shutterstock
  • Oddly, that’s less than the national average. In the U.S. alone, 36.4 percent of households rent instead of own, meaning that the national “double up” figure is equivalent to over 82 percent of renters. This is less surprising than it seems at first glance, because it means that more Americans give up both renting and co-living as they take up homeownership, whereas in San Francisco most people remain renters for longer.
  • The spike in roommate living is actually not as high in SF as the rest of the country. Since 2010, the number of San Franciscans teaming up to make ends meet on rent day rose nine percent. But nationally, the same figure rose 13 percent. This seems surprising at face value, but San Francisco has been one of the priciest places to live in America for years.