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Continued: Lee Schafer: High rents reflect shift in living patterns

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 22, 2014 - 9:00 PM

But boy oh boy, is the rent ever high.

The median rent for a two-bedroom place in San Francisco is up 13.8 percent in the past year to $3,550 per month, or about 48 percent of the median household income.

It’s not just fast-food workers who find themselves priced out of the city where they work. A lot of middle-class resentment is directed at the industry that made the region rich, in Silicon Valley.

The tech industry awards, the Crunchies, drew a raucous crowd of demonstrators earlier this year. Protests also have broken out at public bus stops when Google sends its white, Wi-Fi enabled coach buses to fetch employees for the drive down the peninsula to Mountain View in Silicon Valley.

It’s a bitter culture clash, but it’s not what Americans have come to understand when they hear that term. It’s not conservative vs. liberal. It’s urban liberal vs. urban liberal who can afford the $3,550 in rent.

There’s no reason to predict rents that high here any time soon, not with square mile after square mile of buildable land still within a comfortable drive from the central cities.

But there may be a change underway in who can afford to live in the city, what Minneapolis author, professor and development consultant Peter Brown described this week as an “inversion.”

At the risk of oversimplifying his point, it means the housing patterns of the late 20th century could be reversing. Instead of affluent professionals living in the suburbs, they prefer to come into the central city, and they can afford places like the Nic.

Asked where people earning $14.54 per hour will live, Brown said, “they’re going to move to older housing stock in the suburbs. The big challenge for them will be balancing housing costs with … transportation costs.”

That’s because there’s no gleaming coach bus coming for them. Not at that wage. They will be on their own.

lee.schafer@startribune.com 612-673-4302

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