Recently the city had more outmigration than in—that is to say, more people moved out of SF to other cities than vice versa. The population still increased, but it was mostly due to other factors, like the local birthrate.
Indeed, the “outmigration” stats have been the go-to for SF doomsayers for quit sometime. That’s what makes recent findings by San Francisco-based rental site Apartment List so interesting; for the first time in a long time, data shows more people interested in moving to the Bay Area.
In the newly published migration report, SF came in fifth place for cities that outsiders are eyeing, with 42 percent of home searches in the area coming from other cities.
But San Francisco landed in seventh place for locales people want to leave, with 38 percent of apartment shoppers in SF searching for homes elsewhere.
Note that “all results are aggregated at the metro level,” so the San Francisco designation includes a significant part of the East Bay and Peninsula as well—which is a good thing in this case, because it minimizes distortion created by people considering moves out of SF to nearby Bay Area locales instead.
Lots of home and apartment sites attempt similar “migration reports,” and while they’re an interesting statistic, they’re also limited in scope, being as they only reflect the users on that site.
Still, this one stands out compared to, say, real estate site Redfin, which has told us every couple of months for years now that, according to their metrics, more site users want to leave the Bay Area.
That trend continues in Redfin’s most recent report, which puts SF in second place for “outflow.”
So what does all of this data mean for the average person? Well, if Apartment List is right and more renters were at least hypothetically interested in moving here last year, then despite population growth tapering off in recent years, the city may keep growing.
And if the competing perspective of Redfin is right, then the city will probably still keep growing, because they’ve been saying the same thing for years.
Bottom line, we can’t sit around and hope that interest in San Francisco will wane enough to solve our problems: housing, traffic, transit crowding, rent prices, market competition, and even more mundane concerns like long lines in public are not going to disappear via urban flight.
Keep watching the indicators, sure. But in the meantime, the city has to work for active solutions.