This Date in UCSF History: The Housing Crisis

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Originally published in Synapse on Sept. 16, 1996.

Summer is supposed to be relaxing and free from stress. Quite the contrary, I feel like an unpaid, overworked social worker.

You ask me why? I have been actively looking for housing for friends and family. It has made my weekends hectic and hellish, and my evenings exhausting.

How do you beat the odds, especially in a city with less than a 1% vacancy rate? I don’t know.

My sister is moving out from New York City to the Bay Area. I have been looking for two months on her behalf. (I’m an Aldea resident.) I haven’t found anything. I’ve called, driven and been to the open houses. The 1% vacancy rate is real and maddening.

Before you even get your coffee to read the morning Chronicle, vacant apartments seem to vanish overnight. Desperate would-be renters may be hanging out in the areas where the Chronicle is first delivered.

There are hordes of people interested in the few vacancies available. Sometimes you can’t even get past the busy signal to find out where the open house is. I’ve heard of horrific interrogations at these open houses.

The bottom line to most landlords and property managers seems to be, “Which prospective tenant makes the most money?”

The conditions of some of these flats was disappointing, to put it mildly. Last week I went to a showing of a one-bedroom in the Richmond. It was very small, with no real windows, and the kitchen was a closet. It looked like the floor wasn’t scrubbed and that the place needed some paint. I thought it should rent for $500; it went for $775.

Evil landlords are raising rents on these vacant apartments without doing the needed repairs.

Driving around the Marina district I found a sign that said “studios for rent.” I called the landlord and said that my sister couldn’t afford to pay over $1,000 a month for a studio. He instantly hung up on me. Talk about rude!

It’s becoming really oppressive for those of us looking for a place to live.

UCSF Housing

As a married student, I feel extremely lucky to be living in UCSF family student housing. Although it is small and has walls that transmit everything, it’s a real deal and I am not complaining. A one-bedroom is $577 and a two-bedroom is $695. There are shuttles to bring you up and down Mount Sutro. There are even playgrounds for children.

The UCSF landlords are great. They pay attention to things that may need fixing. However, things are changing and the deals for students may not be around forever.

This summer I went to a meeting on Aldea redevelopment. There are plans to tear down and rebuild the current family student housing.

Aldea was built in an era of shoddy construction — the 1950s — and the buildings are in constant need of repair. The planners say that we’ll get more living space and that the campus will save money from not having to do constant repairs. However, rents will increase.

By the time Aldea is rebuilt, those in one-bedrooms will pay an estimated $825. Those in two bedrooms may pay $1,125. Most graduate student research assistants make anywhere between $800-$1000 a month.

With the increase in rent, graduate student research assistants will need a cost of living allowance increase. Those at Aldea will be living alongside construction work for up to three years, and throughout the period of construction, there will be fewer units available to house students.

Several years ago, a survey was taken of Aldea residents. Residents at that time were willing to pay more in rent for more space. I am not sure the residents at that time were aware of the future tuition increases to come.

Since the early 1990s, tuition for UCSF students has skyrocketed. Unfortunately, with increases in rent, future married families with children may find it difficult to find affordable and accessible housing on-campus and in the city. 

Sister still looking...

Now I know why we have people sleeping in Golden Gale Park. If only San Francisco were a bit warmer.

Needless to say, the lack of housing affects us all — students, staff, faculty and the community. At some time, you will either be looking yourself for a place or looking for someone else.

By the way, I am still looking a place for my sister. Does anyone know of any openings, preferably in the Marina, North Beach or Inner Richmond District, near the Golden Gate transit?