Capitol Alert

California’s rents skyrocketing, report confirms

Roof gables are set into place by a framer atop a 69-unit apartment complex under construction in Elk Grove in January, 2012. A percentage of the units was set aside for low income qualifiers, but with the state’s redevelopment program cancelled, communties and state politicians are scrambling to find more money for low- and moderate-income housing..
Roof gables are set into place by a framer atop a 69-unit apartment complex under construction in Elk Grove in January, 2012. A percentage of the units was set aside for low income qualifiers, but with the state’s redevelopment program cancelled, communties and state politicians are scrambling to find more money for low- and moderate-income housing.. rpench@sacbee.com

Not only does San Francisco have the nation’s highest rents – a median of $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment – but three other California cities are in the top 10, a new report by Zumper, a nationwide rental listing service, says.

The report provides new fodder for burgeoning political debates in the Capitol and many city and county governments over how soaring housing prices can be tempered.

While rent control and other regulations are competing with proposals for more construction at the local level, the Legislature is weighing various measures to pump more money into low- and moderate-income housing, including a tax on real estate transactions and revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade fee on carbon emissions.

The housing tax measure, Assembly Bill 1335, is being carried by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and would raise between $300 million and $500 million a year. But as a tax, it requires a two-thirds vote and could only muster 48 votes on its first test in the Assembly, six short of passage, as Republicans and some Democrats balked.

The new data also fuel concerns about the state’s widening income gaps. An alternative measure of poverty used by the Census Bureau found that California has the nation’s highest level, with 23.4 percent of the state’s residents impoverished. The measure is heavily impacted by the state’s housing costs, which hammer low-income families, forcing many to spend 50 percent or more of their incomes for shelter.

Zumper’s annual rental report sees “a perfect storm for rising rents across the United States,” but particularly in urban areas and even more particularly those in California.

While San Francisco has the nation’s highest rents, San Jose, with a $2,300 median for a one-bedroom apartment, is No. 4 behind New York and Boston, Oakland is No. 6 at $1,980 and Los Angeles is No. 9 at $1,750. Other cities in the top 10 most expensive rental markets are Washington, Chicago, Miami and Seattle.

Oakland, however, was also tabbed as the “hottest market” because its rents have been rising faster than those of any other major city, up 20 percent in a year, followed by Austin at 17 percent. Other California cities seeing double-digit rent increases in the past year are Sacramento, No. 4 at 15.4 percent, for a one-bedroom unit; San Jose No. 5 at 14.9 percent; and San Francisco, No. 9 at 12.9 percent.

Rents in California’s other major cities are markedly lower than those in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. San Diego was No. 11 at $1,500 for a one-bedroom apartment, Long Beach was No. 20 at $1,120, Sacramento 23rd at $900 and Fresno No. 33 at $750.

Larger apartments also command premium prices in California’s major cities, topped by San Francisco’s $4,750 for a two-bedroom unit, up 17.3 percent in the last year. Two-bedroom apartments in Oakland climbed 26.3 percent to $2,400.

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