Cost of living skyrockets in Bay Area



By Jessica Forrester, CONTRIBUTOR

Living on minimum wage is harder than you would think. Try putting yourselves in the shoes of Janet Harrison, a 24-year-old mother of two living on $13.50 an hour. Harrison has three jobs and struggles to make ends meet. Even with the help of her significant other, they are still met with financial difficulties.
“I struggle everyday thinking if I will have enough money to last next week,” says Harrison.
Harrison wakes up every day around 4:00 a.m. to start her first job at Denny’s in Walnut Creek, which pays $12.00 an hour. She works for eight hours and gets off at 1:00 p.m. From there she commutes to start her receptionist job at a law firm in Hayward, which pays her $13.50 an hour. She spends the next five hours at this job, ending her day at 7 PM. She finishes her day by picking up her children from her mother and makes it home at 9:00 PM.
Harrison earns roughly $1,800 per pay period, but the cost of children, food, and rent in the Bay Area does not leave much expendable income. Harrison’s rent alone is $2,000, which is her whole check. Having a roommate, or in Harrison’s case, a significant other that would make her responsible for only half the rent.
“When I look at my checks each week, I get excited to see the amount I made. $1,800 is a lot of money in two weeks but it’s barely anything when you have the responsibility of children and other life factors. It makes me want to cry,” says Harrison.
The Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live, with the poverty line for an individual being $117,000, according to San Francisco Housing and Urban Development. That means the hourly wage should start around $50 an hour.
The ever increasing cost of living in the Bay Area means that some people live in poverty with an income that they could survive on in other locations. For example, the median rent price in the Bay Area is $3,690 according to apartment finding website Zumper’s National Rental Index, making the Bay Area the No. 1 most expensive place to live in the United States.
To work part-time, you would be working 25 hours at $13.50, making $675 in the two-week period. Adding the rent of $2,000, that alone doesn’t sound doable. Changing the calculations to 40 hours a week that would be $1,080 for the two-week pay period. That would essentially get the rent paid if you were to put your whole month’s check toward having a roof over your head.
The minimum wage in the Bay Area has been increasing and some cities have even reached $15 an hour such as Richmond, San Francisco, and Emeryville, according to the California Labor Department.