San Francisco is so expensive that more people are leaving than moving in — and it could mean disaster for the nation's tech capital

  • San Francisco's metropolitan area lost more residents than it attracted between 2016 and 2017, according to US census data.

  • People are leaving San Francisco because of the out-of-control housing prices. The city's median-priced home now costs $1.5 million.

  • The nation's tech capital risks losing talent if they can't afford to live there.

People are leaving San Francisco because, as they say, the rent is too damn high.

US census data shows the region that includes San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward — a city in the East Bay that offers a quicker commute to Silicon Valley — lost more residents than it attracted between 2016 and 2017. And the migration is worsening in the Bay Area's urban core.

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The Wall Street Journal reported that in the year ending July 1, census data shows the area had a net loss of almost 24,000 residents who moved into other parts of California or the US.

The San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan area lost only half that many residents the year prior. As recently as 2013 – 2014, the region saw net annual gains of about 15,000 people.

A critical lack of affordable housing and sky-high rent prices have made the San Francisco Bay Area unlivable for many artists, artisans, longtime residents, and even tech entrepreneurs.

The median-priced home in San Francisco sells for $1.5 million, according to Paragon Real Estate Group. It's not uncommon for buyers to bid hundreds of thousands above asking and pay in all cash.

The situation has forced many to rent longer than they would like. In March, San Francisco's median two-bedroom rent of $3,040 was about two and a half times as high as the national average. Still, people are finding ways to make it work. They cram into communal housing, or "co-living" units, that offer perks like maid service and free internet in lieu of space. Some give up their internet, cable, and cars, while others take home wherever they go by living in vans.

The housing crisis could put Silicon Valley at risk

The San Francisco Bay Area, recognized as a global hub of tech finance and innovation, may be at risk of losing top tech workers if they can't afford to live there, even on six-figure salaries.

A recent report from Paragon Real Estate Group showed that the household income required to buy a median-priced home in San Francisco reached an all-time high of $303,000 in December.

Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which is based in San Francisco, responded to the report on Twitter, saying: "As a non-profit employer, I cannot see how we reconcile this with a future for our organization in San Francisco."

She added: "Our local employees, particularly the younger ones, struggle to make ends meet. They leave when they start families. How can we be an equitable employer when only those who can afford to work for us, do?"

Brian Brennan, senior vice president at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, told the Wall Street Journal that while the area's high-paying jobs and lifestyle still bring tech workers to the Bay Area, "it is hard to get the best talent outside of this region to come here and stay here."

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