clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

San Jose, SF among lowest vacancy rates in the U.S., says study

But that still leaves more than 100,000 Bay Area homes empty

Aerial photo of downtown San Jose. Photo by Tim Wilson

Tens of thousands of homes sit empty across the Bay Area right now, even as the region wrestles with seemingly never-ending twin crises concerning housing and homelessness.

But vacancy rates are a fact of life in most American cities. In fact, according to data compiled by the online lending site Lending Tree, one Bay Area city—San Jose—has the lowest vacancy rate in the entire U.S. right now, with San Francisco not far behind.

Economist Tendayi Kapfidze used census data from 2017—the most recent year for which reliable data is available—to hash out the vacancy rate for each city.

“The survey measures the overall vacancy rate in an area by dividing the number of vacant households by the total number of households,” writes Kapfidze.

The results: Of the 50 major cities listed, San Jose’s vacancy rate of 4.26 percent citywide—about 28,846 units—is the lowest.

Famously dense San Francisco also performed pretty well, coming in at No. 45 with 5.61 percent. That’s a little over 100,000 empty units.

The latter figure may seem curious; after all, according to the city’s most recent Housing Inventory released this week, San Francisco has fewer than 400,000 homes altogether.

But it’s important to note that census data usually covers not just SF but also a larger tract that lumps in Oakland and Hayward with the city.

Similarly, the figures for San Jose are not only for the city of San Jose, but also include the larger Santa Clara County metro region.

For perspective, Kapfidze estimates that the highest vacancy rate in the country is Miami, with 17 percent. That adds up to more than 400,000 empty homes.

Sacramento ranks No. 28 on the list with 8.84 percent—more than 78,000 vacancies. LA notches just below SF at No. 44, but its 5.84 rating adds up to more than twice as many empties—more than 268,000.

Some empty homes in the Bay Area are vacant simply because they’re on the market right now—in the SF area, that figure adds up to roughly 28,000 homes, and in San Jose about 11,000.

Others properties are deemed “for seasonal, recreational or occasional use.” In SF that’s another 20,000-plus.

But many other homes fall into the category of “other vacant,” units that are not being put to any particular use right now. In the SF-Oakland-Hayward zone, that amounts to 37,741 homes.