By Natasha Bach
June 28, 2018

In San Francisco, a family earning just under $120,000 a year is considered “low income.”

That’s according to a new report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which calculated that figure according to the median price for a single-family home in the Bay Area, which is now at $947,500.

HUD makes an annual calculation to set income limits for housing assistance. The calculation takes the area’s median family income and housing costs into consideration, and categorizes income levels accordingly. Those who make 80% of that figure are considered “low income,” while those who make 50% of it are “very low income,” and those making 30% are “extremely low income.”

With the rapid increase in housing costs in the Bay Area, the “low income” bracket starts at families of four earning $117,400 a year or less. The “very low income” category ranges from $44,000 to $73,300 a year for a family of four. This puts the Bay Area at the highest end of the “low income” classification—ahead of Los Angeles at $77,500 and even New York City at $83,450.

This rate not only prices out many families—only 15% of San Francisco county residents could afford a median-price home in the first quarter of this year—but also represents a massive increase in living costs overall in the Bay Area. In 2014, the very low limit was set at $55,350 and the low at $88,600. With housing prices rising faster than incomes, that number has quickly ballooned.

Despite this, those “low income” San Francisco families will not be eligible for public housing. HUD sets a national poverty guideline, which doesn’t take into account the cost of living. That number is currently set at $25,100 for a family of four, but even some of those families don’t receive assistance. It is the families earning around $18,000 a year who are typically the recipients of housing assistance.

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