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Santa Monica Rent Increases Slow but Prices Still Among Highest in Metro L.A.  

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 1, 2017 -- Rent hikes in Santa Monica are starting the new year with a minus sign, although the cost of living in an apartment is still the second highest in metropolitan Los Angeles, outdone only by Westwood, a new study released Tuesday found.

The median price for a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica was $2,920 a month, a tiny decrease of 0.70 percent compared to December, according to a nationwide study by Apartment Rents of data received from those who use the popular service to find apartments and to list availability.

The data primarily focuses on big cities with large concentrations of renters.

“Nationwide, rents fell for the fourth straight month, though the index is beginning to level off,” said analysts Andrew Woo and Chris Salviati, who authored the report.

The pattern was typical of the off-season for renting, they said, but rents were expected to begin rising again “in coming months as more renters move in the new year.”

A Westwood one-bedroom rental was a median of $3,160 a month in January. The report did not specify the month-month change in the affluent neighborhood in the City of Los Angeles. Overall, the city posted a drop of about one-tenth of one percent in that period.

Rents in Santa Monica and Westwood did inch up 1.60 percent between 2015 and 2016. And Santa Monica out-charged its neighbor for two-bedroom apartments, with the median monthly rent hitting $4,350 compared to $4,200 in Westwood.

Santa Monica often ends up at, or near, the top of lists tracking rentals, pushing toward the staggering median monthly rents of such spots San Francisco ($3,340) and New York City ($3,200). Even amid the Great Recession, between 2007 and 2009, Santa Monica’s rents slipped only slightly.

Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment at the time was $1,542, down from $1,631, the Rent Control Board said, or 5.7 percent.

Vacancy rates are extremely low throughout Southern California, driving the rent increases. Like some of California, Santa Monica has embarked on a flurry of endeavors to increase the housing stock, especially for affordable housing.

In the meantime, rents in Santa Monica and other L.A. metro cities in 2016 easily surpassed the California median rents for one-bedroom units, or $1,700 (the nation’s highest), and the national median of $1,100.

In an accompanying survey of renters, the authors said affordability continued to be a major worry, with 44 percent of renters saying they are “very dissatisfied” or “somewhat dissatisfied” with the cost of renting in their cities.

Despite the high rents, Santa Monica was one of six California cities that received “A+” scores in the organization’s survey of overall satisfaction with the communities in which they live.

Local jobs, career opportunities and feeling safe were the major reasons, the authors said. Also on that list were Pasadena, Burbank, Chula Vista, Glendale and Irvine.

The fastest rising rents in the country were far from Santa Monica. At the top of the list was Tacoma, Washington, with a 6 percent jump last year (to $1,050 a month for a one bedroom), followed by Phoenix, Arizona, with a close to 4 percent increase (to $830 for a comparable apartment).

San Bernardino, an area that experienced high growth for years but now, according to the analysis, has “one of the highest shares of cost-burdened renters in the country. Rents there rose 3.2 percent last year.

Among local cities with large numbers of renters, Long Beach saw a 6.1 percent rent hike between 2015 and 2016, to a monthly median of $1,390 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Orange saw a 5.3 percent increase to $1,700 for a comparable unit, Glendale a 4 percent increase to $1,910, Pasadena a 3.2 percent increase to $2,090 and Fullerton saw a 2.10 percent increase to $1,500.

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