by Tracy Elsen
Rents in the San Francisco metropolitan area grew faster than those in any other major US metropolitan area between January 2014 and January 2015, according to a new report from real estate website Zillow. The San Francisco metro area took the No. 1 spot, with 14.9 percent year-over-year growth even as rents around the country began to soar, with cities like Denver, Kansas City, Nashville, and Birmingham also near the top of the list. Coming in second, however, was another Bay Area city, San Jose, whose metro area saw 13.4 percent year-on-year rent growth. You may recall that Oakland has also been awarded the dubious distinction of the second-highest rent growth in the nation, behind Denver, according to Trulia's measure of rent price increases in the largest rental markets in the US. In this latest Zillow report, Oakland's rising rents were counted alongside San Francisco's, meaning that Bay Area renters are outsuffering Denverites when our combined misery is taken into account.
The San Francisco metropolitan area includes towns in Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, and San Mateo counties. Berkeley had the largest change, with a 32.4 percent spike in rents from January 2014 to January 2015. (Though its growth outpaced Oakland's last year, Berkeley's too small a market to have appeared in the aforementioned Trulia report.)
According to Zillow's numbers, Oakland saw a 21.3 percent increase, while in San Francisco itself rents were up 16.6 percent. The Zillow Rent Index puts San Francisco's median rent at $4,021, while Oakland's is $2,412. Because Zillow's index assesses the rental value of all housing stock, not just the changing makeup of rentals that come on the market from month to month, it can be useful for measuring price changes over time, even if the approach leads to some oddities as you zoom in. For instance, in St. Francis Wood, a neighborhood of freestanding single-family homes that don't exactly pop up on Craigslist seeking roommate shares, Zillow calculated an essentially theoretical median rent of $6,348.
That said, within San Francisco, Ingleside Terrace saw the biggest jump in rents, with a 33 percent increase in just one year. Westwood Heights and Westwood Park weren't far behind, at 27.5 percent and 27 percent, respectively. Some of the expensive but more established neighborhoods on the north side of the city experienced the lowest rent increases, according to Zillow's metric. The Marina went up just 3.4 percent, while Russian Hill rose only 4.7 percent and Cow Hollow increased 6.3 percent. The Marina is still, however, the third most expensive neighborhood in the city for renters, according to the Zillow Rent Index, with a median rent of $5,948. It's topped only by the Jordan Park area of Laurel Heights at $5,985 and St. Francis Wood's $6,348.
There is some good news for San Francisco renters. Although rents skyrocketed during the past year, the growth has slowed significantly over the past quarter, with only a 1.3 percent uptick in prices. Many neighborhoods were flat or even decreased slightly. Has the astronomical growth stopped, or are we currently getting just a temporary reprieve?