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Six-figure salary now considered ‘low-income’ in SF, according to feds

HUD figures say “low income” limits in city start at at $82K per year for single persons and quickly break $100K for families

Whitewashed San Francisco houses. Photo by Sundry Photography

The Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD] released new income estimates Monday that presented a depressingly unsurprising perspective on the cost of living in San Francisco, as many SF households bringing in more than $100,000 annually now qualify as “low income” with the federal government.

HUD’s annually assessed “income limits” judge how much a person or household can make per year and still qualify for certain types of federal housing assistance, deeming residents either “low income” (80 percent of the area-median income), “very low income” (50 percent), or “extremely low income” (usually less than 50 percent, although the formula for this one varies).

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 5-year ACS median family income (MFI) estimates are used as the basis for calculating HUD’s” 2018 figures, according to the department’s published methodology.

According to fiscal year 2018 figures, “low income” status in San Francisco begins at $82,200/year for a single person, the highest in the country.

For a household of two the cutoff is $93,950/year, and a household of three breaks the six-figure mark with $105,700/year. The published scale maxes out at eight persons and $155,000/year.

Conversely, HUD considers a single San Franciscan making $51,350/year “very low income,” whereas yearly earnings of $30,800/year (before taxes) qualify as “extremely low income.”

Photo by Simon Poon/Shutterstock

At the beginning of 2018, figures from the U.S. Department of Economic Analysis reveal that the median U.S. Income across all household sizes was less than $60,000/year.

In San Francisco, HUD considers a similar wage “very low” for a household of two and “extremely low” for a household of eight.

Note that when HUD talks about “San Francisco” it’s actually referencing the larger San Francisco metro area, if you will, that includes Marin County and San Mateo County. So in fact, parallel figures for just San Francisco would probably be even more extreme.

In 2017 the “low income” bracket for SF started out at $73,750/year and broke six figures for a family of four at $105,350. Whereas five years ago, the 2013 figures considered $59,100/year the beginning threshold of “low income” for a single San Franciscan.

Even then, HUD assessed the city’s median household income at more than six figures, $101,200/year at the time. The last time an average San Francisco/San Mateo/Marin family brought in less than $100K was 2010, when the figure was $99,400/year.