Gentrification — Affordable Housing
After applying for housing my first year at San Francisco State University, I noticed how expensive it was to live not only in the dorms but also in San Francisco itself. Discussing the cost of living in San Francisco with my family and friends, I realized it was more expensive than my friends housing at their colleges and as well as housing in my hometown. So after that experience was when I became very interested in the reason behind increased housing costs, which lead to gentrification — the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. This topic deserves further exploration because residents of San Francisco and any other cities experiencing gentrification agree that the cost of housing is ridiculous, which makes keeping a roof over one’s head much harder than expected. This results in people moving farther away from where they would like to be, not because they don’t like the place or there were no more places to live, but because they have no choice. How can they pay that kind of money? Silicon Valley tech workers are driving out the middle class families in the Mission District and raising the housing prices which these families can no longer afford.
Gentrification is the increased property value and displacing of lower-income families and small businesses which San Francisco takes the biggest hits on. A few years ago and still today, Silicon Valley, only 40 miles south of San Francisco, is known as one of the most technologically advanced places to work in the Bay Area. People that work in Silicon Valley choose to live in SF because of its location. In Carol Pogash’s article from the NYTimes, “Gentrification Spreads an Upheaval in San Francisco’s Mission District” she highlights the changes like replacing 99-cent stores and rent controlled apartments with organic ice cream shops and luxurious condominiums, which is something a working-class neighborhood does not want and/or need. Silicon Valley and technology workers are a big reason housing increased so much, since San Francisco is a desired place to live for them. When talking about the Mission District specifically, city supervisor David Campos says, the “[m]edium- and low-income people are being left behind.” Because of the increase in housing they are left no choice but to move somewhere more affordable. Mr. Campos is the representative of this district and has noticed the changes resulting to “[t]he Mission [being] ground zero for the fight for the future of San Francisco.” Middle class families in the Mission District do not want to lose good affordable stores getting replaced by high-end stores which they cannot afford to shop at, it does not make any sense placing those types of stores in this neighborhood where residents can’t even buy from.
Just recently, San Francisco hosted the Super Bowl, but being an already highly gentrified city, hosting this game did not help the issue of gentrification, explained in Ian Lovett’s article, “Super Bowl 50 Further Divides San Francisco.” Hoping this would bring good to the city with more visitors to shops and paying to stay a few nights, the proposition ended up becoming very expensive and resulted in huge overtime expense for the workers. Residents are already angry with the influx of expensive restaurants, high-end stores and rich, young tech workers who have snapped up apartments in historically low-income neighborhoods, so why host the Super Bowl which would only increase the prices of places to stay? Some residents believe that the city funds could have been better spent on affordable housing or on addressing the homeless encampments. The city was asking the homeless to leave the streets before the Super Bowl, which only created a bigger controversy with the people. Jennifer Friedenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness argued, “You have a $5 million corporate giveaway to host this party, and that’s money that could have been used to house 500 homeless people for a year… It really puts a spotlight on the priorities of this city.” Apparently the city wanted to take the risk of spending a lot of money to host an event that would make San Francisco more world famous, as if it wasn’t already, while that money could’ve helped fixed one of the biggest issues they have in the city. There are two sides in this issue, those benefiting from the economic boom and those who are being priced out. One has to look into the long run of the situation, either that money could’ve changed the lives of hundreds of people, or what the city went with which was that few years of fame that will most likely fade in the future. Priorties.
Even though there are “cons” with gentrification, some residents are grateful for the changes gentrification has brought, including a drop in crime in the city. Since San Francisco is a “world-class” city no matter if the city took a loss for hosting this event, there would still be a benefit because this was a worldwide event. Gentrification has become a problem for the residents of SF and that has gone out of control and potentially could get worse in the future, unless we address this issue now and fix it so that everyone could benefit and enjoy living in SF like old times.