An anonymous 40-something-year-old Twitter employee has come under fire after telling reporters that he can’t afford to live on his $160,000 annual salary.
The New York Daily News tore into him, referring to him as a “beleaguered techie” who “bemoaned” his six-figure salary in a “trend” piece for The Guardian.
“I didn’t become a software engineer to be trying to make ends meet,” he told reporters.
The unnamed software engineer lives in the Bay Area––and San Francisco is notorious for its ruthless housing market. In fact, San Francisco is considered one of the most expensive cities in the United States to live in. The median rent price is $3,320 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $4,430 for a two-bedroom.
That’s more than twice as much as the median rent price for the country overall: Currently, the median price around the nation is $1,164 for a one-bedroom and $1,377 for a two-bedroom.
The Guardian cited a study which showed that even employees at major tech firms can expect to spend more than 40 or 50 percent of their annual income on rent.
It’s not just tech employees or those in the most lucrative sectors who can’t afford to live in San Francisco, to say nothing of what it’s like for the average person or family.
Doctors can’t afford 58 percent of the homes in the area, according to a study by Trulia. Teachers put up 77 percent of their income toward housing, according to a report from Curbed San Francisco. In fact, a study from the real estate site Redfin found that there are zero homes in San Francisco County that are affordable for a teacher with the average salary of $59,700. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
The Twitter employee said most of his income to his $3,000 monthly rent, which he called “ultra cheap” for a two-bedroom home in San Francisco. (He is married and has two children.) He said he would like to purchase a bigger home, but finds himself competing with 20-somethings who share accommodations while paying up to $2,000 for a single room.
In 2014, Twitter changed its payroll schedule, which affected the employee’s budget.
“I had to borrow money to make it through the month,” he said.
He’s not the only tech worker with grievances.
An Apple employee says she is living in a garage, using a compost bucket as a toilet. Another tech worker says he lives in a 2-bedroom apartment with 12 other tech workers. The apartment was rented through Airbnb.
“It was $1,100 for a f***ing bunk bed and five people in the same room. One guy was living in a closet, paying $1,400 for a ‘private room,'” he told reporters.
“We make over $1m between us, but we can’t afford a house,” said a woman in her 50s who works in digital marketing for a major corporation. “This is part of where the American dream is not working out here… If Obamacare goes away and I lose my job I am deeply screwed.”
Michael says he won’t miss some of his more mundane day-to-date costs, like $8 bagels and $12 juices. He has accepted a 50% pay cut and will relocate to San Diego.
From a Canadian IT specialist in his 40s who makes $200,000 in yearly income: “When I came to the Bay Area the amount of money they were going to pay me seemed absurd,” he said. However, the cost of rent and childcare, which cost “more than I paid for my university education in Canada”, has been hard to swallow.
Fred Sherburn Zimmer, who works with the San Francisco’s Housing Rights Committee says the consequences of the housing market are even graver for those who don’t work in the tech sector.
“For a senior whose healthcare is down the street, moving might be a death sentence,” she said. “For an immigrant family with two kids, moving out of a sanctuary city like San Francisco means you could get deported.”
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Don’t think tech workers don’t sympathize, either.
From the Canadian IT specialist: “We think a lot about how people with normal jobs afford to live here. The answer is: they don’t. They commute from farther and farther afield.”
Others expressed guilt for complaining when others are less fortunate.
“You are literally stepping over people to get to your job to make hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Michael, the worker who accepted the pay cut. “How do you go about your daily life as if it doesn’t matter?”
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