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Which tech company’s workers can afford to rent in SF?

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Median income reports for Silicon Valley’s top-tier companies reveal who’s being priced out

Protestors Call For Consumer Protection And Privacy Outside Facebook HQ Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Silicon Valley Business Journal disclosed the median pay at dozens of major tech companies. And, of course, our first question was, which companies pay enough for workers to afford living and renting in San Francisco?

Federal law requires that these companies publicly reveal their median pay. The Journal says that “median pay means half of the company’s employees, not including the CEO, make less, and half make more.”

Note that several major companies, including Apple, haven’t ponied up numbers yet. But the list, as it stands, contains most major players, as well as some surprises—for example, Facebook reports that its employees average an astounding $240,430/year, the highest margins in the region.

So, who can afford to rent in SF? Assuming that “afford” means spend no more than 30 percent of monthly income on housing—a naive standard in 21st century Bay Area, but the the standard nevertheless—it depends on what we assume the city’s median rent to be.

According to the U.S. Census, the median rent in SF in 2016 was a little more than $1,600. In which case the Silicon Valley set can afford the city with ease, with the exception of Tesla and Yelp workers, who occupy the bottom two spaces on the Journal’s salary list.

But if tech workers are shopping for apartments online, the median price for a one-bedroom apartment is more than twice the average cited in the census report. For Q2, the Zillow-owned listing site Hotpads reported an SF average of $3,520/month, the highest among its peer platforms.

That means that workers have to bring in roughly $11,735/month to avoid becoming “rent burdened” at those prices—or $140,820/year.

While most Facebook employees can afford it, how does the rest of the valley fare? Take a look:

  • Tesla: $54,816
  • Yelp: $59,298
  • PayPal: $70,228
  • Electronic Arts: $96,336
  • Intel: $102,100
  • Autodesk: $115,892
  • eBay: $122,891
  • Zynga: $140,382
  • GoPro: $151,857
  • Square: $152,265
  • Salesforce: $155,284
  • Twitter: $161,860
  • Netflix: $183,304
  • Alphabet (Google): $197,274
  • Facebook: $240,430
Photo by InFootage/Shutterstock

A few important caveats: “Median” means that half of the company’s workers make less than that, in some cases far less.

But that also means that many SF apartments cost far less per month than the median price, particularly if the tech set settles for studio living.

The Journal also points out that these salary reports don’t include the value of the valley’s famously plush worker amenities, which can seriously cut down on the cost of living. Nobody riding the Google bus has to worry about paying for gas, after all.

On the other hand, these are also pre-tax figures, so it’s possible it all events out in the end.

If you’re wondering how many of these median workers can afford to buy in SF, the answer is zero; the California Association of Realtors presently advises house hunters that they should make at least $330,000 annually if they want to own a San Francisco home without undue financial risk.

For more insight into how the other half lives, check out the full list of income disclosures here.