Coronavirus Impact: Bay Area rent prices drop, but those unemployed fear eviction

A Bay Area attorney predicts most eviction moratoriums now in place will be extended. By the way, while most areas are seeing rent declines, rents in Oakland year to year are up 4.5% and in Livermore, rents are up 15%.

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Rents declining, but out of work renters struggle to keep up
Coronavirus pandemic is forcing many rents downward, but unemployed struggle to pay in the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Declining rents during the pandemic are opening up new opportunities for many.

Unfortunately, a seemingly good opportunity for some is an impossibility for others. As we begin our Building a Better Bay Area coverage "The Housing Shift", we explore a tale of two cities.

Mary Ann Marino lives in a studio apartment at the edge of the Tenderloin in San Francisco with her 22-year-old daughter.

RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: The Housing Shift

"It was the only thing we could afford. We relocated back here in 2018," she said.

She says living in the neighborhood has taken a toll on her health.

As she said that, the road of sirens could be heard.

"You just heard the sirens go by, right?" asked Mary Ann. "It's very difficult to work at home with the outside noise whether it be sirens and people screaming."

Declining rents gave Mary Ann hope she could soon move.

The rental listing site Zumper said in its July report that rents in San Francisco fell nearly 12% from the year before.

VIDEO: San Francisco sees record-breaking drop in rent prices amid pandemic, according to Zumper data

This is the largest year-over-year drop in the price of rent the city has ever seen, according to data collected by apartment rental site Zumper.

Mountain View and Cupertino each saw year to year rents plummet 15%.

In San Jose, rents dropped 8%.

Two months ago, Mary Ann began looking for a new apartment.

She flirted with putting down a deposit for an apartment in this high rise near the Embarcadero.

"We were going to immerse ourselves into a higher rent, but then we talked ourselves out of it," she said.

But the landlord suggested she keep checking back.

The rent ended up dropping $550 to $3,200 in two months. She took it.

Her apartment on the 19th floor will have views of the Bay Bridge and the Embarcadero.

"Sir, honestly, we are beyond the moon excited. We cannot, we can't sleep. We're so excited," exclaimed Mary Ann.

Her landlord even threw in free parking.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom extends state eviction moratorium through September

Tenants right attorney Jackie Ravenscroft says some developments are offering one to three months free rent.

"Newer developments, you know, kind of the quote amenity-rich developments, usually these are centered around Downtown close to tech areas," said Ravenscroft.

Some, although not all tenants, already in longer-term leases have been able to negotiate lower rents.

"The bargaining power for tenants is still pretty strong right now," she said; but too many tenants can't afford to pay their rent at all and live in fear of losing their homes.

Tenants Together offers a free renter's hotline.

"I mean, it's been through the roof since the pandemic started. We always have a little bit of a backlog, but we're like really working furiously to get through a backlog right now," said Shanti Singh of Tenants Together.

RELATED: Eviction moratoriums around the Bay Area during coronavirus pandemic: Ordinances city by city

She says some landlords have tried to coerce stimulus payments from their tenants.

Singh also accuses others of increasing rents during the pandemics and some have even illegally locked out their tenants.

"Both of these things that seem contradictory-that some tenants are finding themselves in a buyer's market and some tenants are even finding themselves more exploited than they were before, they seem contradictory, but it's about income inequality."

Tenant attorney Ravenscroft predicts most eviction moratoriums now in place will be extended. By the way, while most areas are seeing rent declines, rents in Oakland year to year are up 4.5% and in Livermore, rents are up 15%.

Take a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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