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San Francisco Might Not Be the Worst Real Estate Market in the Country Anymore

Scott Lucas | May 9, 2014 | Lifestyle Story City Life

In news that makes us feel so good, we're going to take the next two days off to celebrate, data released by real estate company Trulia indicates that San Francisco isn't the most depressingly unaffordable real estate market in the country.

It's only the fourth-most depressingly unaffordable real estate market in the country. Who's got it worse than us? Miami, New York, and L.A.

Despite a year-over-year increase in rent prices of 17%, the highest jump among the 25 most expensive cities, San Francisco scores better on at least one metric than those other elitist enclaves. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment as a share of average local wage is 51%—which means it takes just slightly more than half of the mean wage to afford rent of a 2BR.

Considering that most economists will tell you that the most you should be spending on housing is one-third of income, that's whoppingly, astronomically bad. But, it's slightly less bad than Miami, which tops the list at 62%, New York City (also 62%), and Los Angeles (54%).

Driving our ranking is a sharp increase in new housing construction. Relative to the local average from 1990-2012, in 2013 San Francisco saw the greatest increase in new building permits issued. We were at 185% of our previous baseline. Coming in at number two was San Jose, at 147% of its average levels. (To be fair, it's easier to exceed the average if the absolute number is relatively small.) The take-away: All of those cranes have had an impact.

Another consideration is that San Francisco's gains in affordability could be driven by an increase in wages. As that number goes up, housing becomes more affordable. That's of course good if you happen to be part of a growing economic sector, but less so if you're left behind.

Still, with all caveats, go us. Life's still terrible here—but ever so slightly less terrible than it was before you read this.

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