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SF is America’s sixth worst city for first-time homebuyers

For San Franciscans, this harrowing news is not a surprise

A long shot of the San Francsco skyline from the water, almost completely obscured by fog. Sundry Photography

In Monday’s New York Times, the East Coast paper declares “a full-fledged housing crisis has gripped California” and notes that “the median cost of a home here is now a staggering $500,000” and “homelessness is surging across the state.”

All of which is more or less true, and absolutely none of which is news to San Franciscans.

The Times even cites the amazing example of a San Francisco hospital nurse who makes $180,000/year but has to commute from Manteca.

Coincidentally, on the same day the finance website WalletHub released a report ranking 300 American cities from best to worst markets for first-time home buyers.

Times readers and Californians alike will not be surprised to learn that 18 of the 25 worst ranked cities on the list are in California, six of which are in the Bay Area.

San Francisco itself came in 294th out of 300. Oakland was number 298, and Berkeley was 299. The best showing for any city in the nine Bay Area counties was Vacaville, which managed 116th place.

SF did fairly well in a few of WalletHub’s 23 relevant metrics, like the real estate tax rate (38th in the nation) and foreclosure rate (30th).

But it goes without saying that it was the prices that did the city in: San Francisco ranked 271 for affordability, 281 for cost of living, and 275 for rent-to-price ratio.

Juraj Spanik

The finance site cites “U.S. Census Bureau, Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Insurance Information Institute, AreaVibes, Renwood RealtyTrac” and its own previous studies as data sources.

Which brings the focus back to the Times story, which mostly focuses on San Francisco’s own State Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu’s campaign to make Wiener’s Senate Bill 35 into law.

Specifically, SB 35 would essentially force some California cities to approve more housing by temporarily blowing away procedural barriers toward building permits in metros that aren’t building enough to satisfy state expectations.

Helene Schneider, mayor of Santa Barbara, says the proposed law is “giving developers a great gift” while depriving locals their due say in the process.

But Wiener insists that the housing problem is now so serious that such steps must be taken, noting that, while coastal enclaves like LA and the Bay Area have always been pricey, “explosive costs have spread like wildfire” across the entire state.

According to a press release, SB 35, which the California Senate already approved in June, passed in the Assembly Housing Committee on a 5-1 vote July 12. The full assembly has not yet taken up the bill.

Martin Valigursky