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People Are Living in Indoor Boxes Now in San Francisco, Because the Rent Is Too High

Topics: Current Events

OK, fine, it’s just one person, but isn’t that still too many? Freelance illustrator Peter Berkowitz currently lives in an 8-foot-long, 4.5-foot-high wooden box in his friends’ living room. He tells The Washington Post that his decision to construct and move into the box wasn’t “fueled by poverty,” but rather the desire to achieve “some kind of middle ground between having a bedroom and sleeping on a couch.”

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(Photo Credit: Michael Hirsch/Unsplash)

Berkowitz, who is 25 years old and has had work featured in The New Yorker, pays $400 a month to sleep in his pod, as he calls it. Roommates with normal-sized bedrooms pay $1,000 a month.

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The pod cost $1,300 to construct, and contains a twin-sized bed, a fold-up desk, and LED lights. WaPo says it’s “no larger than a wide bookshelf and inconspicuously stationed at one corner of an apartment living room in the Sunset District neighborhood.” Berkowitz is still working on fully soundproofing the pod.

If this sounds crazy to you, congratulations: you probably don’t live in the Bay Area, which consistently has one of the highest costs of living in the country, along with New York, Honolulu, and Washington D.C.. San Francisco and its environs are so famously expensive, stories abound about folks who’ve decided to forgo the $3,670 a month median rent (for a one-bedroom!) and seek alternative accommodations.

When the Rent Is Too High, People Get Creative

Just last year, we read about a Google engineer who lived in a van in the office parking lot – and he wasn’t even the first Googler to try living off perks and sleeping in a parked vehicle, instead of shelling out for rent.

When even software engineers at Google – who make median annual salaries of $111,551, according to PayScale data – can’t afford the rent, you know it’s too damn high. (TM Jimmy McMillan.) The question, of course, is what to do about it.

Don’t Hold Your Breath, Waiting for Tech Companies to Move

There’s no question that the tech industry bears responsibility for the sky-high prices in San Francisco, as well as some of the fallout when workers can’t find an affordable place to live. (Witness the buzz around the now-infamous open letter that former Yelp employee Talia Jane wrote to the CEO, pointing out that her entry-level salary didn’t cover her expenses, even in a relatively cheap apartment 30 miles from work.)

No doubt under pressure from their own real estate costs, some tech companies do wind up leaving the Bay Area, but don’t expect the industry to flee en masse.

“There are reasons that [tech companies don’t] pick up and move to Cleveland,” writes Kriston Capps at Citylab. “Most of the reasons tech stays put boil down to ‘path dependency’: It’s a lot easier for companies to find and recruit new employees if they all work and socialize in one small geographically bounded area.”

“Plus, San Francisco is very nice,” she says. “People want to live there.”

Tell Us What You Think

What’s the rent like where you live? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Beth Taylor
Beth Taylor

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I loved it, and I do miss it. However, my husband and I chose to move out of state so we could afford to live and raise children. I also prefer living in a place with water. 🙂

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