San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley named most expensive US region to live in

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The San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley region is the most expensive metropolitan area in the country, according to a report by financial news company 24/7 Wall Street.

The report found that an adequate standard of living in the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley area would require $5,194 per month for a single adult. For a family of four, the hurdle is $11,165.

The report, which used estimates from the Economic Policy Institute for single adults or a family of four to have a “modest yet adequate standard of living,” confirms trends prompted by a high-income tech workforce and increasing cost of living. In Alameda County, a salary of $69,000 is considered a low income for a single adult, while the median family income is $111,700.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index — a measure of the overall cost of basic necessity commodities — rose 3.2 percent over one year ending this June. In that same period, the statistics bureau also reported that the total compensation costs for private industry workers increased 2.6 percent in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area.

In Berkeley, where much of the population attends and is employed by UC Berkeley, the rising cost of maintaining a basic quality of life has drastically changed campus priorities — the most notable being a renewed focus on the need to create affordable housing. In a 2017 study conducted by the chancellor’s office, 27 percent of undergraduate students and 26 percent of graduate students said they considered leaving UC Berkeley because of the housing situation.

Campus librarian David Eifler said the exorbitant cost of living in the Bay Area has created a “brain drain” for the campus. Eifler — who is also the co-chair of UC-AFT Local 1474, which represents librarians and lecturers — said even with a negotiated pay raise of 22 percent over five years, “It’s not enough to retain early career librarians.”

“Within the last year and a half, a number of librarians who were new to Berkeley — after three to five years — left and went to cheaper areas to buy homes,” Eifler said.

Even with a grant that allows her to live on campus, sophomore Gisselle Alvarez finds shopping for healthy food to be a challenge in a city with limited affordable options.

Alvarez said even with CalFresh, California’s nutritional support program, ready access to food can prove to be burdensome, as most grocery stores in the city offer mainly pricier options.

“It’s weird, because when you are picking a college, you never consider how much it’s going to cost to live in the town,” Alvarez said. “I might have reconsidered.”

Contact Brandon Yung at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @brandonyung1.