According to new Census Bureau numbers, the median income in San Francisco just won’t qualify for a home mortgage for those who choose to live here. Has the political class given up on the desirability of home ownership?
It’s a serious question because holding a title (even if it means sharing it with a lender) does enhance personal freedom and security. If you can get through the permit process and some design restrictions you can fix your residence to your personal taste. And nothing tangible builds serenity in the autumn years like equity.
So the median income for all households, as reported by the 2005 American Survey, is $57,000. For professionals, the average salary is $70,000. Those numbers come up against a rude financial wall: To purchase a $500,000 home, a far from palatial habitat in The City, one needs an annual income of $100,000.
Another study, this one from the Bay Area Council (concerning which we’ll comment further on Saturday), tells us that at the end of the year San Franciscans typically had saved no money, compared with an employed Seattle resident ($19,000) and one in Charlotte, N.C. ($22,000). That money presumably goes to housing, whether rented or owned.
We now know that families, along with some major businesses, have over the last decade fled The City. That population number you might notice on the bridges’ city limits signs? It really needs to be revised downward. New signs, which maybe will come with the dedication of the new Bay Bridge, certainly can’t advertise 790,000-something happy souls.
We’d wager that San Franciscans would be happier if they made enough money to buy homes. And, indeed, if the supply of homes were materially increased. Sadly, we don’t know if the municipal government would make that wager with us.
If it would, then it should follow urbanist Joel Kotkin’s advice and, among other things, truly make The City "the host for a commercial market." It’s no secret that much public policy here, on the books and contemplated, has greatly pinched everyday options for business owners.
Exhibit A, of course, is Mayor Newsom’s mandated health care plan, which Democrats want to use as a model for a state system and which explains Phil Angelides’ unwillingness to back the state Legislature’s premature plan.
Then, of course, businesses have to grapple with the minimum wage, which militates against the unskilled. And they must worry about Supervisor Daly’s radical sick leave proposal — again reducing the employability of the unskilled and thereby the local economy’s productivity.
It’s fashionable, using spotty recent evidence, to dismiss the classical economists’ rule that increased productivity raises the general wage level. Over the long run, however, the rule remains ironclad. The City’s no exception.