Pricey San Francisco Seeing Population Exodus in Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic


San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo by Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz via Wikimedia Commons

Long one of the nation’s “it” destinations, San Francisco was already a land of unaffordable housing before the coronavirus hit, and with the median single-family home price still hovering above $1.5 million even as of December thousands of residents are leaving the Golden Gate city.

Data from high-tech sources like cellphone location trackers to old-school change-of-address forms have started to put some scale around the reversal of fortune the City by the Bay now faces, with anywhere from 1.5% to perhaps 3% of its population exiting for surrounding counties or other states over the past year. Housing prices are beginning to follow suit.

“The Bay Area is hurting,” cellphone data firm Unacast said in an analysis concluding that about 46,000 people had left the Bay Area’s 10 counties, with more than 13,000 leaving San Francisco itself. “The exodus from both city centers and Silicon Valley is very real,” and may have resulted in a blow to local incomes of around $12 billion.

In a separate analysis, Oxford Economics, citing U.S. Postal Service change of address information, said the decline in the city’s population may have topped 27,000, the fourth highest in the nation and part of a broader population reshuffle from major cities during the pandemic.

That has been feeding through to higher home sales in places like Texas and North Carolina, where people have been moving.


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