SF Rent History Chart

The rent chart below is a project I began several years ago — and was an amateur effort based on day-by-day news headlines. As of May 2016, Eric Fischer has done a much more comprehensive and professional job of tabulating historical San Francisco rents in his recent data essay on the relation between rents and incomes. He went all the way back to  1948, and even found numbers from 1920. Eric Fischer is a respected guy. I’m sure his underlying data are good, and he has important insights about the way rents and incomes change together in the city.

At the interpretive level I don’t agree with his assumptions. He’s accepting a couple of supply-side oversimplifications: first, that all new units, whatever their initial cost to builders or occupants, have equal effects on the housing economy — and, second, that advocates for constructing subsidized affordable housing are “really” opposed to all new construction.

Richard Walker’s recent demand-side essay on housing prices provides some counterpoint to that. So does a comment in the thread under the data essay pointing out that  eviction data is missing from the picture. And especially, so does the  report by Miriam Zuk and Karren Chapple on housing production, with its findings on the extreme slowness of “filtering” for luxury construction — on that aspect see this statement from SFCCHO.

But I don’t have to agree with Mr. Fischer’s politics to respect his data sets. Those can be appreciated as a technical achievement regardless of what political gloss you put on them.

It will be interesting to see what else he or others may do with his data set, which he has kindly posted on GitHub.


And here’s what I posted a while back:

Begun in an attempt to make some kind of point on Twitter, here’s a list of claims published over the years about “the” average San Francisco rent. Many reports linked and quoted here give neighborhood-specific as well as citywide data. For the sake of apples-to-apples comparison I’m presenting only basics: report source (with date of report), date of data, type of apartment, and area covered.

Please send links if you have additions to suggest. Reports mentioned here are the property of their respective authors. No endorsements intended as to the accuracy of claims quoted. The point of this page is just to report who was saying what, when.

Click here for clarifying notes on the differences among asking rents, average rents and “Fair Market Rents”.

Report source Date of data
SF or region? Studio 1BR 2BR All apts
Map? Source notes
Zumper, nat’l report, via SacBee on 082615 August 2015 SF $3,500 No See also CA & national data in rept
REIS via Curbed on 7-6-15 (h/t @srslynow) Unclear – current as of Jul 2015 SF metro area $2,316 Yes Ave. (not median) current (not asking) rents, 20+ units
Priceonomics on 8-12-15 June 2015 SF $2,722 $3,452 $4,400 $3,880 Yes Asking rents via crawler
RentJungle May 2015 10mi of SF $3,213 $4,385 $3,803 No
SFGate 7-25-15* May 2015 SF $3,200 $4,400 Includes nostalgia tour of 1895-1985 classifieds
Zillow via SF Curbed and cf this followup from Curbed
and this from SFBT (h/t @srslynow)
April 2015 SF

Bay Area 5 counties
$4,225 SF only

$3,162 BayArea
No
RealFacts via SFGate on 5-7-15 1Q 2015  SF  $3,458  No Asking rents, bldgs of ≥50 units
Zumper via SFGate on 3-9-15 and UpOut on 3-5-15 February 2015 $3,460 Yes
HUD 2015 FMR data October 2014 SF County only (This changed.)  $1,256 $1,635 $2,062 No Laughably tragically lowball
Priceonomics on 8-13-14 via Curbed & @tmccormick June 2014 SF $2,300 $3,120 $4,000 $3,600 Yes Asking rents via crawler
RealFacts survey via SFGate on 7-16-14 2Q 2014 Bay Area $2,583 in SF $3,042 in SF $4,248 in SF $2,158 overall, $3,229 in SF No Asking rents, bldgs of ≥50 units
Zumper via Curbed SF 2-13-14 January 2014 SF $2,813 $3,925 Yes
HUD 2014 FMR data For 2014 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,956 No Lowball
RealFacts via SJMerc-News 12-29-13 3d Q 2013 SF  $3,096 average No
Trulia via Forbes of 11-5-13 October 2013 SF $3,250 No
Cassidy Turley via SocketSite 10-30-13 October 2013 SF  $2,434  $2,980 $3,266 No Asking rents.
Rentmetrics: 1BR, 2BR Collected 10-15-13 Within 5mi of SF ctr. $2,750 $3,887 Yes
Apartmentratings.com Collected 10-14-13 SF $2,576 $3,079 No Small samples
Zumper via Curbed SF Posted 09-23-13 SF $2,713 $4,075 Yes
Socketsite
quoting Cassidy Turley
Posted 08-01-13 SF  $2,312 $2,782 “up to” $3,791  $2,899 No Stunning comments thread re: wealth
Priceonomics via SFist Posted 07-19-13 SF $2,800 $3,875 Yes
City analyst report via SFGate 11-5-13 June 2013 SF citywide $3,414
Zumper via Curbed SF Posted 03-07-13 SF $2,700 Yes
HUD 2013 FMR data For 2013 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,795 No Lowball
Census Bureau via SocketSite and SF Examiner 11-14-13 as of 2012 SF $1,463 No Rents paid (not asking prices).
Apartmentratings.com 2012 SF $2,543 $3,104 No Small samples
RealFacts via SFGate 05-09-12 SF $2,611  $2,663 No
City analyst report via SFGate 11-5-13 2012 SF citywide $3,156
HUD 2012 FMR data For 2012 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,905 No Lowball
SFGate of 8-11-11 quoting RealFacts 2011 SF $1,801 in bldgs of 50+ units  $2,361 in bldgs of 50+ units No
Apartmentratings.com 2011 SF $2,228 $1,675 No Small samples
HUD 2011 FMR data For 2011 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,833 No Lowball
SFGate of 11-13-10 quoting RealFacts + Marcus & Millichap 3d Q 2010 SF $2,282 in bldgs of 50+ units; $1,782 in bldgs of 15+ units No
SFGate of 8-11-11 quoting RealFacts 2010 SF $1,595 in bldgs of 50+ units No
Apartmentratings.com 2010 SF $2,105 $2,280 No Small samples
HUD 2010 FMR data For 2010 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,760 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2009 SF $1,789 $2,342 No Small samples
HUD 2009 FMR data For 2009 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,658 No Lowball
SFGate of 11-13-10 quoting RealFacts 3d Q 2008 SF Appx. $2,400 in bldgs of 50+ units No
Apartmentratings.com 2008 SF $2,012 $2,357 No Small samples
SFBG “Shelter Shuffle” feature 2-12-08 SF  $1,114 No
HUD 2008 FMR data For 2008 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,592 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2007 SF $1,736 $2,500 No Small samples
HUD 2007 FMR data For 2007 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,551 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2006  SF $1,733 $2,156 No Small samples
HUD 2006 FMR data For 2006 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,536 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2005  SF $1,723 $2,243 No Small samples
HUD 2005 FMR data For 2005 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,539 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2004  SF <$1600(?) >$2,000(?) No Small samples
HUD 2000-05 FMR history data For 2004 SF, Marin, SMateoCo  $1,775 No Lowball
SFBG quoting SF Housing Element 10-22-03 SF $2,057 No
Apartmentratings.com 2003 SF >$1600(?) <$2,000(?) No Small samples
HUD 2000-05 FMR history data For 2003 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,940 No Lowball
Apartmentratings.com 2002  SF >$1600(?) <$2,400(?) No Small samples
HUD 2000-05 FMR history data For 2002 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,747 No Lowball
SFRB Affordable Housing Data Book Cost & Affordability Sec., p.4 (“SFRB”)* 2001  SF $2,400 No  Derived from SF Chron classifieds
Apartmentratings.com 2001 SF <$2000(?) >$2,200(?) No Small samples
HUD 2000-05 FMR history data For 2001 SF, Marin, SMateoCo  $1,459 No Lowball
SFRB 2000 SF $2,100 No
Apartmentratings.com 2000  SF <$1800(?) >$2,200(?) No Small samples
HUD 2000-05 FMR history data For 2000 SF, Marin, SMateoCo $1,362 No Lowball
SFRB  (SFChron ads) 1999 SF $1,995 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1998 SF $2,000 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1997 SF $1,600 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1996 SF $1,350 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1995 SF $1,100 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1994 SF $1,050 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1993 SF $965 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1992 SF $990 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1991 SF $1,000 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1990 SF $975 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1989 SF $895 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1988 SF $850 No
SFBG 2008 “Shelter Shuffle” feature 1988 SF  $450 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1987 SF $900 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1986 SF $850 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1985 SF $750 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1984 SF $650 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1983 SF $595 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1982 SF $595 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1981 SF $525 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1980 SF $475 No
SFRB (SFChron ads) 1979 SF $435 No
SFBG 2008 “Shelter Shuffle” feature 1978 SF  $159 No
*Peter Hartlaub’s July 25, 2015 tour of SF Chronicle classifieds has a few sample rents 1895-1985. The 1935 example says “Child welcome.” The 1985 one says “Cat ok”.

Notes and comments on sources:

– For the run of SFRB data from 1979 through 2001, a lot of that sharp increase in annual rents does make sense because of the Web 1.0 boom. On the other hand, maybe the history of advertising should be considered since these figures were based on SF Chronicle classifieds. Somewhere around the late 1990s wouldn’t the lower-priced, scrappier landlords have been the first to move over to Craigslist, the Bay Guardian, or other cheaper advertising outlets?


Added note 2/13/14: a Twitter exchange with @MarketUrbanism suggests a need to clarify that many (not all) of the commercial/journalistic sources cited below are talking about average asking rents for new tenancies, not average rents paid by ongoing tenants citywide. Calculation methods for different claims about rental rates vary substantially, however, so it’s best to check each cited article for its description of methods. The SFRB study cited for many earlier years’ rent rates was also based on studies of asking rents, though in earlier years there was likely less difference between asking and ongoing rates.

Rent control is only available to tenants in older buildings and our vacancy decontrol system means a private landlord can charge market rate for almost any new tenancy. Accordingly, San Francisco has a two-tier rental economy, with established tenants often paying much less than new ones. Every eviction from a rent-controlled unit moves that unit from the lower tier to the upper one.

Regarding the very different premises that keep the HUD “Fair Market Rents” too low to attract Section 8 landlords easily, I wrote a note on the indignant side that’s linked here from the heading “Lowball“. However, @DPelletiere cautions that the FMRs are not an average of San Francisco rents either. They are “based off of American Community Survey data of units rented in recent years, not all tenancies and not [Section 8] tenancies.” Fair enough. Housing advocates do complain that the FMRs are too low in SF but that’s not the same as saying they reflect a true average.

Further added note 3/14/15: HUD used to issue FMRs for the San Francisco region but the 2015 FMRs are specific to San Francisco County. That means they apply only to the selectively rent-controlled seven-by-seven-mile city itself. They don’t reflect conditions in the surrounding towns, which have neither San Francisco’s rent control laws nor its density.

6 thoughts on “SF Rent History Chart

  1. Pingback: OK, here’s a chart of San Francisco rent rate estimates. | Unquiet Titles

  2. dkzody

    For 15 months in 2010-2011, we lived a magical year in SF, renting a 525 sq foot studio at Rincon Center for $1882/mo. We had to leave in 2011 when the rent jumped to $2440. Oh, and parking was an additional $375/month. We sure had fun while there.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: San Francisco HUD FMR history since 2000 | Unquiet Titles

    1. Martha Bridegam Post author

      Thanks, Tim. That’s kind of you. If you run across any new claim about rent rates in San Francisco, whether it’s credible or not, please send me a link and I’ll mention it here with notes and, if appropriate, some debunkery.

      Reply

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