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"It was a splendid population - for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home - you never find that sort of people among pioneers - you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day - and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, "Well, that is California all over."

- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Monday, July 6, 2015

Families need $200,000 to live comfortably in San Francisco

Homeless in San Francisco


  • With insane home prices and rents, how people live in many California cities is beyond me.
  • Just a fast glance on Realtor.com and a person could buy a four bedroom home in Reno, Nevada for $142,000 and a monthly payment of $668 a month.
  • Do you turn over every cent you make to the bank for a house payment in San Francisco or Silicone Valley? or do you move out of the area or out of state?

(San Francisco Chronicle)  -  Last week we told you about Kelly Dwyer, a city worker and mother of two, who received an out-of-the-blue $900 monthly rent hike on her single-family home in the Sunset District — and promptly packed up for Vacaville.

Single-family homes aren’t subject to rent control under state law, and Dwyer and her husband decided they couldn’t pay the new rent of $3,000 a month. They managed to scrape together enough money to buy a home in Vacaville with a monthly mortgage of $2,400.

Dwyer’s story really hit, um, home with readers. Some felt sorry for Dwyer and said their families are bracing for big rent hikes, too. Some fear for an exorbitantly priced city that can’t keep its families — San Francisco already has the smallest percentage (13.4) of residents younger than 18 of any city in the country.

Some said if you can’t swing it here, too bad. And some asked, “Why in the world can’t a family of four with two good salaries afford $3,000 a month?”

Kelly Dwyer helps her daughter, Saoirse, 5, with packing tape as Dwyer
prepares to move out of the family residence in San Francisco, Calif.

That, dear readers, is a legitimate question, one with some head-shaking answers. The short one is that it’s not easy to be a family of four in San Francisco these days, even with two good salaries, especially if you live in a home without rent control.

For starters, according to the Children’s Council of San Francisco, a family with an infant and 4-year-old will pay an average of more than $40,000 a year for full-time child care. And anybody can relate to the high cost of food here, even if you’re talking chicken nuggets and not Zuni’s famed roast chicken.

So how much do you need to make a year to raise two children in San Francisco? Assuming you don’t qualify for any kind of subsidized housing or other government assistance, but that you also don’t have a trust fund or massive stock options?

“To live a comfortable life where you’re not worrying month-to-month about paying the rent or mortgage, I would say $200,000 if you’re sending the kids to public school,” said Todd David, a dad in Noe Valley who is also a member of the San Francisco Parent Political Action Committee. He and his wife bought their house in 1997, and he said there’s no way they could afford to move to San Francisco now.

We know the $200,000 figure sounds outrageous, but we asked some other parents what they thought, and the answer was always in that ballpark.

Of course, many families in San Francisco are surviving on a lot less by staying in the same rent-controlled apartment forever, doubling up with other families, living in single-room-occupancy hotels, renting small in-law units or getting government assistance. And in a city where an estimated 2,200 public school students are homeless, nobody’s shedding tears for those whose families can afford to buy houses in Vacaville.

City officials in recent years have squabbled about what income level should be the cut-off for qualifying for the city’s affordable housing. Progressives usually want to limit it to 120 percent of the median — or $122,300 for a family of four — while moderates often say those making up to 150 percent ($152,850) should qualify.

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