If it seems like nothing is the same in the Bay Area anymore, technically you’re wrong. In many neighborhoods, you’re likely to have the same neighbors in the same homes as you did back at the beginning of the 1990s—or even longer.
Using data from the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey, a recent study looked at which major American cities have the most homeowners (not renters) who have lived in one house for at least 30 years.
While the number-one spot went to Detroit, Michigan, you don’t have to look very far down the rankings to hit Bay Area pay dirt.
- Daly City came in second place. Per census estimates, 37.2 percent of current homeowners have been in their homes for at least three decades.
- And not very far behind is Berkeley in fourth place, with 35.1 percent.
- SF just barely misses out on making the top 25, landing in 27th place. The number of very long-term residents in Baghdad by the Bay is 28.6 percent.
- After the top 25, the rankings get much closer together. For example, San Mateo’s percentage was very close to SF’s at 28 percent, but it landed a whole five spots lower in 32nd place.
Note that the study only looked at cities with populations of 100,000 or more, which actually excludes the majority of Bay Area townships. Among the next ten largest cities in the region, the American Community Survey doesn’t record any long-term homeowner figures higher than 25.1 percent.
So is it a good thing or a bad thing to live in a city with a large number of longtime neighbors? Well, certainly it’s good for people to have that much security, and presumably those long tenures reflect well on the community as a whole.
And with the Bay Area in constant existential dread about the changing of the guard, the idea that many neighborhood mainstays remain may provide some comfort.
That said, there are also some infrastructural hurdles that such an environment can create. For example, Bay Area politicians are very fond of pointing the finger at entrenched homeowners as a spur behind NIMBYism. Fair or not, communities that accrue such reputations can end up as easy targets for critics.
In a more tangible sense, staying in one home for decades on end can create problems for the homeowners themselves. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development noted in 2013 that “many seniors feel that their current homes are not well suited for aging.” The agency also noted that keeping one home for a long time in suitable comfort is often a privilege reserved for wealthier households.
Meanwhile, Freddie Mac last year cited longtime homeowners “aging in place” as one factor potentially driving up home prices for others, especially first-time buyers and millennials. Seniors staying in one home longer “accounts for about 1.6 million houses held back from the market through 2018, about one year’s typical supply of new construction.”
Of course, the Bay Area hardly needs help driving up demand for homes. But every little bit counts.