San Francisco has become a bedroom community for Silicon Valley’s most respected firms and new startups. As this slideshow on the 25 largest tech employers in San Francisco shows, the city is attracting some of this nation’s smartest, most creative young people in the world and Frisco’s economy is exploding as a result. Job growth is up, the real estate market is booming, and new businesses are popping up all over the city.
But with the rapid growth and flood of high-paying tech companies into the city comes a shocking downside. Unable to afford ridiculously expensive rental housing, young professionals are resorting to mimicking the world’s most expensive rental cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong just to find somewhere other than the streets to live. Here are some living options that will have you saying CUFBI!?
The Shipping Container Lifestyle
One option for young renters in Frisco is living in a box. There’s a whole village in Oakland where you can rent a shipping container for about $1,000 a month. These tiny apartments are at ‘Containercopia’, where your monthly rent gets you a shipping container complete with glass windows, electricity, and a private bathroom. This is a steal in a city where the average price for a one bedroom apartment is $3,500 per month.
Wharton school graduate, Luke Iseman, leases a 17,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Oakland and has built 11 micro residences out of cargo containers. He is renting them all out but he admits his offer of cheaper accommodations isn’t even technically legal (which is why he has no website). Due to zoning restrictions, has been chased from two other locations by the authorities but says he will continue trying to provide affordable housing in the San Francisco area. Tenants include a Facebook Inc. engineer, a SolarCity Corp. programmer and a bicycle messenger.
The name refers to their micro size – an apartment as small as 200 sq.ft (about 5 ping pong tables). But it is also a slam on their assumed tech-savvy tenants. These micro apartments rent for $1,300 and higher – which is crazy in most cities but not in San Francisco where a regular person-sized apartment now goes for $2,000 per month and up.
Check out the latest offerings on the Curbed website of micro dwellings available now in SF.
The ridiculous rent rates practically guarantee that only young IT workers will be able to afford these tiny luxury McMansions. For an idea what these tiny dwellings looked like, a new micro-apartment complex called SmartSpace is promoting these box homes. An advocate for these pint size living quarters says SmartSpace crams 23 units into its footprint, each at 85 to 310 square feet.
The apartment contains narrow rooms with a bathroom at the front, wall mounted TV over a computer workstation, and a window seat with a hydraulic pop-up table. Some units have a fold-up bed integrated with a dining table. A closet holds a washer/dryer combo and some even have appliances like a small convection oven. They do have high ceilings, says the owner.
Keep on Truckin’
In an effort to save some of his paycheck from Google, Brandon S. turned the company parking lot into his new home. He lives out of a box truck parked near the search engine’s campus in Mountain View, California. He started out renting a two-bedroom apartment with three roommates which was costing him $2,000 per month. He says he was paying an exorbitant amount of money for rent and that he was never home.
Instead, he bought a $10,000 used Ford E350 and started living in it. His truck has evolved into more of a place to store his stuff and a place to sleep as he takes advantage of all the amenities Google offers such as shower, charging his gadgets, and eats all his meals in the Google buildings. And he also has to fork out $121 a month for insurance on his truck.
Brandon explains that he doesn’t own anything that needs to be plugged in. The truck has a few built-in overhead lights, and he has a motion sensitive battery-powered lamp he uses to see at night. His laptop will last all night on a charge and he has a bed, a dresser, and a coat rack in the truck. The only challenge, he says, is keeping the rodents away, so he has a strict no-food policy in his truck-house.
Is Tokyo the Future for Frisco?
Once a symbol of prosperity in Japan, capsule hotels are finding new residents; the working poor. These capsules cost $700 – $1,000 per month, a bargain in Tokyo and San Francisco alike. And Frisco also shares the same poverty rate as Tokyo these days – both coming in around 14%. The poverty rate in San Francisco is experiencing the highest poverty level in the area.
In ultra-dense megalopolises like NYC and Hong Kong, ridiculous rental rates mean paying way more and getting far less. Tokyo is another example of how bad it can get for San Francisco; in an attempt to save money but still live in the heart of the city, some young people are choosing to pay hundreds of dollars per month to live in tiny, box-sized rooms.
According to a Japanese news program, these share houses are in demand from renters willing to pay up to $586. a month to live in a stacked, coffin-like room. The room is suitable only for sleeping, though heat and electricity are included. Bathrooms are shared with other renters and most of these units don’t even have a window.