Bay Area Vacant Property Statistics

Bay Area Vacant Property Statistics

  • Bay Area Vacant Real estate statistics and facts

    1. San Francisco had 38,651 empty homes in 2018

  • 2. The Bay Area has over 46,000 vacant homes
  • 3. Oakland had 6,000 vacant homes in early 2020
  • 4. San Francisco had 11,760 vacant homes in 2020
  • 5. 100,000 homes were vacant in San Francisco in 2017
  • 6. Oakland has 47 percent more homelessness than in 2017
  • 7. Nearly 10 percent of homes in San Francisco are vacant
  • 8. The vacancy rate in metro San Francisco is 5.6 percent

In 2018, San Francisco had over 38,000 empty homes, while also having thousands of homeless people. Over the entire Bay Area, there were 63,527 homeless people and over 92,000 vacant homes, a ratio of nearly three homes for every two people. But the article notes that counting both vacant homes and homeless people is difficult to do at times: San Francisco’s homeless population is estimated to be between 8,000 and 17,600, a wide range. Also, the vacant home and other San Francisco vacant property statistics is estimated from census data.

This article estimated the number of vacant homes in San Francisco to be around 11,000, with over 46,000 homes vacant in the entire Bay Area. This is explained in part by homes still under construction being counted as “vacant,” so not all vacant homes are actually habitable. In fact, the articles noted that supply of homes on the market was actually low in early 2020, even with that number of vacant homes. The article also noted that many landlords are keeping rentals vacant, wanting to wait to find tenants that can pay more in rent.

The Census Bureau estimates that 11,000 homes are vacant in San Francisco, 6,000 are vacant in Oakland, and 4,000 are vacant in San Jose. The story of vacant homes in the Bay Area gained greater attention after two homeless mothers took over an abandoned house in Oakland, but the great majority of the homes counted as vacant are not abandoned. A home is counted as vacant if it is for sale or for rent, and the number of abandoned homes in the Bay Area is far lower than in other part of the country.

San Francisco has a tradition of vacant properties, according to the author of this article. While the San Francisco city council has proposed legislation of crack down on vacant properties, the author points out that many places are counted as vacant that should not be, for example, a unit rented to the child of a landlord that is not paying rent, or units in small buildings that are not leased because the owners have become too old to want to lease them out. Also included as vacant is a unit that is owned by a person that lives somewhere else and only uses the unit part of the time. The article also points out that the number of vacant homes includes homes on the market, either for sale or for rent.

This article uses a different definition of vacant the other articles, relying on 2017 census data to break down the 100,000 vacancies into 28,000 properties for sale; 20,000 “occasional use” homes; and 37,700 homes in the broad category of “other vacant.” This data was compiled from throughout the Bay Area, from San Francisco to San Jose. Of the types, seasonal use and “other vacant” were the fastest-growing, with both doubling as a percentage of vacant homes since 2015. There was also growth in the “rented or sold, not occupied” category, which encompasses properties where the buyer is doing substantial renovation before moving in or offering it for rent. Of the properties studies, only four out of 2,000 were units that were being held off the market for some investment reason, like to charge higher rents in the near-term. More common were vacant condos, on average 13 percent of a building (and up to 36 percent in some higher-amenity buildings), that were described as “pieds-a-terre,” condos in the city for the wealthy to use occationally. The article concludes that a lot of home are probably going to waste, but that it is hard to identify what kind of waste that is.

This article claims that there are four unoccupied properties in Oakland for every homeless person, and tries to identify the reason for that. But the article also points out that San Francisco (including Oakland), San Diego, and Sacramento all ranked in the top 20 metropolitan areas nationwide for lowest vacancy rates, all with rates under five percent. That fact is in tension with a report that found an average vacancy rate of 70 percent in ten new apartment buildings in downtown Los Angeles. The report called that “what speculation looks like in practice: empty luxury towers while thousands live in desperate poverty on the streets below.” The same report found an “effective vacancy rate” of 74 percent in 25 of Los Angeles’s most expensive condo buildings, where the unit was counted as vacant if it was not the primary residence of the owner. Oakland, meanwhile, has instituted a new vacancy tax on the owners of vacant units. While plenty of new units have been built in Oakland (9,300 homes are currently under construction), these units will not be marketed at the lower- and middle-classes, so they likely will not solve the homelessness problem identified at the top of the article.

This is an in-depth report from three people at the University of California, Berkeley, about the growth of San Francisco’s vacant housing stock. The report looks at causes of vacancies, including: investment in real estate by foreign buyers, and the rise of short-term rental platforms like AirBNB. The report also examines the case study of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as a city with high housing demand but lower vacancy rates. The case study looks at Vancouver’s institution of extra property transfer taxes to ward off foreign speculators and vacancy taxes. Since the institution of the vacancy tax, the number of vacant units in Vancouver has dropped an estimated 60 percent.

This is a news article that repeats the claim that over 100,000 units in the San Francisco metro area are vacant, but also points out that other cities have far higher vacancy rates, like Miami, Orlando, and Tamps. Still, the number of vacant units frustrates many people looking for a home.