To Afford Living in Bay Area, He Resorted to a Shack

Wes Enzinna, a fully employed editor, recounts his struggles to keep a roof over his head
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2019 3:03 PM CST
To Afford the Bay Area, He Lived in 32 Square Feet

In a first-person account at Harper's, editor Wes Enzinna provides a look at what it's like for someone not raking in the big bucks in Silicon Valley to keep a roof over his head. Enzinna, a "fully employed editor," resorted to living in a tiny shack in someone's backyard in Oakland for $240 a month. Picturing a quaint tiny house? Not quite. "The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in," he writes. Drafts meant he could see his breath in cold weather, and weeds sprang up through the floorboards. The shack, as he calls it, was also illegal, given that it didn't have plumbing or electricity (he used an extension cord from the owner's house for the latter).

But Enzinna had little choice. Apartments averaged $3,500 a month in San Francisco and $3,000 a month in Oakland. He had only $1,500 to live on after taking care of his non-rent bills, and cheap rooms with housemates had become exceedingly difficult to find, especially for someone with a "normie career" like Enzinna's. The story puts Enzinna's personal history into the context of the rich-poor divide in the Bay Area, where techie types are thriving and everyone else seems to be struggling as the cost of living soars. Enzinna began treating himself to the occasional night in a hotel, usually around payday, and he eventually caved and got a relatively cheap studio for $2,600 a month—but within less than six months his credit card debt hit $12,000. Enzinna punted and moved back East. (Read the full story.)

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