Elbow room premium on LA rentals: $1,500 gets 454 sf

California cities account for most of country’s smallest apartments in study based on $1,500 benchmark

Los Angeles /
Mar.March 30, 2022 08:30 AM
(iStock)

Pay $1,500 a month on rent within the city limits of Los Angeles and you’ll get 454-square-foot of elbow room, on average. Drive east 25 miles or so to Covina, and that same $1,500 will score a 673-square-foot space. In Palmdale, 65 miles north of L.A., it fetches a 766-square-foot apartment.

Those comparisons come from a report published last week by the website RentCafe, a listing service that also regularly produces data analyses. RentCafe used price per square foot data on average rents and apartment sizes in multifamily properties with 50 or more units, then compared the data across the country’s 100 largest cities. (The reliance on mid-rise and large apartment buildings appears to be a significant limitation, because many cities — including L.A. — have plenty of low-rise and smaller buildings, but the analysis nevertheless offers a baseline comparison across housing markets, and a different way to think about cities’ rent prices.)

The country’s smallest hypothetical $1,500 apartment — surprise, surprise — is in Manhattan, where that price fetches just 262 square feet. (Think of a big one-car garage.) The next smallest can be found in Boston (340 square feet), San Francisco (345 square feet), Brooklyn (357 square feet) and Queens (399 square feet.) Washington D.C. (and its suburb Arlington), Chicago and Seattle also ranked among the nation’s smallest.

But it was California, where soaring housing prices increasingly dominate the political discourse — and have contributed to the state’s much-discussed population stagnation — that dominated the small end of RentCafe’s list.

In total the state counted 11 of the country’s 20 cities with the smallest hypothetical $1,500 apartments. In the Bay Area, along with the tiny 345 square feet in San Francisco, RentCafe found that the rent figure would score 404 square feet apartment in Oakland, 483 square feet in San Jose and 498 square feet in Fremont.

In SoCal, $1,500 gets you 468 square feet in Irvine, 486 square feet in Long Beach and 493 square feet in San Diego. Elsewhere in the Los Angeles metro area, RentCafe calculated a $1,500 space equates to 638 square feet in Gardena and 648 square feet in Whittier.

The C454 square feet within L.A.’s city limits ranked eighth smallest in the country, which is actually a relatively favorable position: In most analyses the wider Los Angeles metro area ranks more prominently among the country’s least affordable housing markets; one report published late last year by Clever Real Estate, which compared median incomes to median home prices, ranked it number one least affordable.

RentCafe’s findings on Orange County cities — $1,500-a-month apartments in Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana are all among the nation’s smallest — are also in line with other reports on that particularly hot housing market. Recent analyses from other sites have found that the county, and especially its larger inland cities, has seen among the country’s largest rent increases.

The country’s largest $1,500 apartments, according to RentCafe’s report, are mostly in the Midwest and South. In Wichita, which took the number one spot, that dollar amount rents about 1,600 square feet — equivalent to six Manhattan apartments of the same price.





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