BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
If a hiring manager responded to your job application by offering you $10,000 to get away from them, you probably wouldn’t take it as a compliment. But one Bay Area tech company, Zapier, is giving its new hires just that treatment, and it’s actually doing them a big favour. Given that the Bay Area of San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living in the country, the new “de-location package” offered by Zapier could be beneficial not only for the employees who take it, but also for the whole region.
The Bay Area’s problem is essentially that the high incomes of its tech industry residents have driven up the price of housing and other elements of the cost of living, which in turn makes it harder for anyone who’s not rich to live there, until the incomes and cost of living start increasing in a feedback loop of gentrification. This has been making it hard for even the tech industry itself to keep up with the costs of living in such an area.
And if the rich are starting to feel it, you can bet that people with lower incomes are struggling even more. Indeed, it’s the middle- and working classes that are at the highest risk in the Bay Area and other heavily gentrified regions. For example, a 2015 study on Bay Area gentrification found that 53 percent of all low-income households in the region were either at risk or currently in the process of displacement.
What’s worse, a lot of them can’t even access the affordable housing programs offered in the area… because they’re too poor to qualify. And even if they weren’t, the waiting list runs into the thousands for a housing development of 400 units. As if that’s not bad enough, government programs are also lagging behind, so that people getting on the waiting list for those housing subsidies today might not get them until the 2020s.
So where does Zapier come into all this? They’re paying new hires living in the Bay Area to leave. Ideally, this will serve to keep those employees from further gentrifying the area and pricing people out, while also encouraging them to move somewhere where their salaries will take them farther so they can live more comfortably (many tech workers also struggle with the cost of living in the area). This clearly improves the employees’ financial situation, and if more tech companies follow in Zapier’s footsteps then it could have a notable impact on the trends of gentrification and displacement haunting the Bay Area.
Although whether this practice will spread to other companies is anybody’s guess, a wider implementation of policies like this would certainly have the potential to improve both employees’ quality of life and the well-being of the city at large.