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SF tech company offers employees $10K to move outside Bay Area

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“De-location package” hopes to stem cost-of-living related losses

Aspen Rock

Zapier, a San Francisco-based startup that automates different web apps to work together, now offers to pay its employees $10,000 to move out of the Bay Area.

CEO Wade Foster, who moved to San Francisco from Missouri five years ago, explained in a company blog:

Some of us fall in love with the area and are financially able to make this home. But for the rest of us, it can be a real challenge to turn the Bay Area into a life-long home rather than a short stop somewhere in our twenties and thirties. The housing crunch and high cost of living simply price out many families and, despite loving the area, the realities are many of us need to look elsewhere to create the life we want for our families.

So Zapier, which has a workforce of about 80 people, now offers a “de-location package” to Bay Area employees who want to move away.

Foster specifies that “The $10,000 will be a reimbursement for moving expenses you incur in the first three months” and that it’s contingent upon employees staying with the company for at least a year.

Inc Magazine points out that Zapier has no office and all of its employees work remotely anyway, adding, “Even [the] founders don't work from the same place. All three men work from home.”

“We don’t care where people work from,” Foster said when speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rendering of a man standing in an empty office looking out at the San Francisco skyline. Photo by Who Is Danny/Shutterstock

On the one hand, this is a clever way to stem potential workforce attrition. But it’s also a potentially grim admission about the cost of city living in 2017 even when you’re a relatively well-heeled startup employee.

Testimonials on sites like Paysa and Indeed suggest that Zapier employees average salaries of $90-$115,000 annually.

The averageU.S. worker makes less than $50,000/year, according to the Social Security Administration. The average San Franciscan in 2017 makes about $89,000/year, according to San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership (SFHIP). So Zapier’s offers aren’t too shabby.

Still, in 2016 employees at companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Google would have had trouble renting at market rates in most San Francisco neighborhoods.

An average Google employee would have been able to commit just 30 percent of monthly income to the rent (the federally prescribed definition of an affordable housing budget) only in the Bayview, Tenderloin, Outer Sunset, and Excelsior that year.

As far back as 2015, employees from major companies began complaining that the cost of living in San Francisco was simply too much even for them.

“People are scared. It's bad and it's getting worse,” a Spotifyier told the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Tenderloin. Rent prices and the general cost of living has come down a bit in recent months, but only a little. Hardly enough to make a noticeable dent.

Meanwhile, as Zapier observes, even those who can more or less afford San Francisco now may dread the idea of trying to afford a family or a mortgage. Only 18 percent of SF households have kids. And we’re one of only 21 major cities in the world where homeowners are the minority.