All that glitters isn’t gold in Silicon Valley.
Mid- to senior-level engineers from a handful of companies in San Francisco, including Airbnb, Google and Twitter, fork over between about 42%-54% of their monthly income to live near the office, according to rental listing company Radpad and job-seeking site Anthology.
With astronomically high costs of living, even well-paid tech workers can be alarmed by their quality of life.
Here are five classic stories of the worst living conditions and housing problems that come along with good jobs in one of the richest metro areas in the world.
Using a compost bucket as a bathroom
An Apple employee living in Santa Cruz was taking shelter in a garage in Santa Cruz, according to The Guardian. How did he manage to use a restroom in the garage, you ask?
Two words: compost bucket.
The same article also highlighted the experience of a Silicon Valley techie at a coding bootcamp, who shared a two-bedroom apartment with 12 other engineers through Airbnb.
“It was $1,100 for a f***ing bunk bed and five people in the same room. One guy was living in a closet, paying $1,400 for a ‘private room’,” he told The Guardian.
Living in a homeless camp
One of the worst horror stories we’ve seen is a worker whose life spiralled downward after being unable to find housing in San Jose, California, near San Francisco, where the median home price broke a record last year at $1 million, according to the National Association of Realtors. Robert Aguirre used to own a Silicon Valley engineering consulting firm, but after losing his apartment and then his job, his living situation went sharply downwards: he had to live in his car, then move with his sick wife to what has been called “the nation’s largest homeless encampment,” according to Mother Jones in 2014.
Part of the problem, he suggested, is age discrimination against older tech workers.
“The jobs that do remain are very technical and usually they hire people right out of school or while they’re still in school. Old farts like me don’t have a chance of competing. I lost my business and the house I owned. When the economy took a dump it took me with it,” he told the magazine.
Aguirre believes tech companies need to think more carefully about how they hire and maintain employees.
“I think the tech companies have an obligation to help out; they’re the ones who’ve outsourced middle-class jobs and driven rents and property values far beyond many people’s reach,” he told the publication.
“It sold in 24 hours for $1.7m”
Navigating the housing market in Silicon Valley is no joke.
Michael, an employee at a networking firm, took home $700,000 last year — that’s Wall Street-level money — and attempted to cut down on his 22-mile, hours-long commute by looking at a place closer to the office. He was too late to get in on the property market, according to The Guardian.
The place was snapped up by hungry house-hunters.
“We went to an open house in Los Gatos that would shorten my commute by eight miles. It was 1,700 sq ft and listed at $1.4m. It sold in 24 hours for $1.7m,” he told The Guardian.
He told The Guardian that since he’s tired of the grueling route to work and cost of living, he’s packing his bags for San Diego to take a job for half his previous salary — and a lot less frustration.
Bunking in a truck
Some have chosen to avoid the unforgiving housing market altogether.
A software engineer moved from Massachusetts to the San Francisco Bay Area to work for Google.
While interning at the company in 2014, he bunked in Google’s cheapest housing option: four people sharing two bedrooms at about $65 per night (about $2000 a month), he told the publication. He chose to live in a truck in the company’s parking lot to save money in 2015, according to Business Insider.
“I realized I was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the apartment I was staying in — and I was almost never home,” he says. “It’s really hard to justify throwing that kind of money away. You’re essentially burning it — you’re not putting equity in anything and you’re not building it up for a future — and that was really hard for me to reconcile,” he said.
But Facebook is one company that has given its employees a leg up on the Silicon housing market before.
People working in the social media company’s Silicon Valley office were offered at least $10,000 to find places closer to work, according to Reuters. Generous, but hardly enough: by our count, that would cover only about three months’ rent in the Bay Area.