When The Affordable Housing Tipping Point is Reached, What Next? Does the City Die?

Painted Ladies, San Francisco. photo by Bernard Spragg. NZ is licensed under Public Domain Dedication
SF Neighbourhood character. Lost when the gentry follow the servant class elsewhere?

Apologies for yet another California story. But since the state is ground zero for both affordable Housing and for homelessness, things may well happen here before anywhere else.

On to the tipping point. Has it been reached in San Francisco. Or the Bay Area?

Here’s one piece of evidence that it has. It’s been estimated that only 1 in 1000 restaurant workers in San Francisco can afford to live in the city.

A well known and well regarded restaurant in the Bay Area has just closed its doors. With its reputation, there is no trouble finding customers. It simply can’t find staff.

Can San Francisco or the Bay Area survive without restaurant workers? Without supermarket clerks? Without shop assistants, transit workers, landscaping gardeners, yoga instructors etc? What about that laid back San Francisco quality of life that neighbourhood preservationists (a.k.a NIMBYites) so ferociously protect? Will it gradually slip away, gracious living for the gentry eroded by a lack of those whose job it is to be gracious?

If the clerks can’t follow the customers, will the customers have to follow the clerks? We have a clue from a recent Stanford University study of rent controls in San Francisco. The study itself tells us principally that rent controls drive up uncontrolled rents. What else is new? Rents are rising one way or another! Read more in CURBED SAN FRANCISCO: Stanford paper says rent control is driving up cost of housing in San Francisco

It is a sidebar to the main thrust of the report which is so interesting. In passing, the researchers note that without the rent controls that make some San Francisco housing at least somewhat affordable, everybody who had previously been privileged to have a lower controlled rent would leave the city. Everybody.

Restaurant staff have gone. Can supermarket clerks and shop assistants, transit workers, garbage collectors, personal fitness trainers and yoga instructors be far behind?

A grim image, but then affordable housing crisis is a grim situation. Perhaps we will all learn something useful from the first city to explode, before that foot stamps down on our own communities.

Read more about the restaurant closure in The Outline: A Beloved Bay Area Restaurant Is Closing Because Staff Can’T Afford The Bay Area