Bay Area vacancy rates drop amid affordable housing shortage

While vacancy rates seem to be dropping, three Bay Area counties actually had an increase.

San Francisco /
Oct.October 26, 2021 10:35 AM
(iStock)

Many Bay Area residential units are vacant, even as the region grapples with a shortage of affordable housing.

Santa Clara County’s vacancy rate rose to 4.6 percent last year from 4.4 in 2010, while it increased to 5.0 from 4.9 in San Mateo and to 8.6 from 8.3 in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, citing census figures. For the Bay Area as a whole, the rate dropped to 5.5 from 6.4 a decade ago, below the national average of 9.7.

The 2010 figures reflected the impact of the 2008 mortgage crisis, from which homeowners are still recovering. Higher vacancy rates typically lead to more affordable homes.

One caveat: The census was taken as the pandemic began, and probably doesn’t reflect the number of people in downtown San Francisco or areas packed with student housing, where residents fled the city.

The 2020 census doesn’t specify which types of housing have the highest vacancies. Data collected for the survey suggests that less than a third of the Bay Area vacancies are “available housing” and 60 percent were for seasonal or “other” residences.

Housing was divided into five main types for the census. While higher vacancies among migrant worker or seasonal housing won’t have much of an impact, vacancies in the for-rent or for-sale categories might help the city with its affordable housing shortage.

[SFC] — Victoria Pruitt





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