Study: California ranks third among worst states for renters

56% of state’s 5.7M renting households “burdened” by rent costs


California has more renters than any state, more tenants per unit and some of the nation’s highest rents. That puts it among the worst places for renters in the U.S., according to a new study.

A rental survey of 50 states plus the District of Columbia ranked California the third-worst place for renters, behind Nevada and Arizona, the Orange County Register reported.

Register real estate columnist Jonathan Lanser crunched Census Bureau housing data, comparing 2021 to 2016 for 50 states plus D.C.

To create a value for renting, states were scored on five-year change in rental costs, their 2021 share of financially burdened renters, the burden’s 2016-21 change, the 2016-21 change in rental households and residents per rental unit in 2021. Rankings resulted from a state’s average grade.

Nevada had the worst value for renters, followed by Arizona, California, Georgia and Florida.

California had the most renting households with 5.73 million, or 13.6 percent of the nation’s 42 million rental homes.

Tenants in California make up 44 percent of households in the state, the third-largest share of renters behind. D.C., at 58 percent, and New York at 45 percent. After California was Nevada at 41 percent, and Hawaii and Texas at 37 percent.

Also, California saw tenant households shrink by 1.5 percent between 2016 and 2021, which the Register blamed on the cost of renting.

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Renting in California had a $1,750-a-month median cost in 2021, with only Hawaii higher at $1,774. After California came D.C. at $1,668, Colorado at $1,491 and Massachusetts at $1,487.

California tenants saw the sixth-biggest rent-cost inflation in 2016-21 – up 27 percent. Top increases were found in Idaho, Washington state and Nevada at 31 percent; Arizona at 28 percent; and Colorado at 27 percent.

Lofty rent expenses left 3.2 million California tenant households financially “burdened,” defined as 30 percent or more of income going to housing costs. It was followed by Texas at 2 million, New York at 1.8 million, Florida at 1.6 million and Illinois at 745,000.

In California, 56 percent of tenants were defined as “burdened” by rent compared to 51 percent nationally. Florida had the largest share of burdened renters at 59 percent, then Hawaii at 58 percent. Louisiana and Nevada tied with California at 56 percent.

The number of burdened renters in California fell from 2016 to 2021 – down 1 percent. But that decline is more tied to the drop in renters statewide than any financial progress, according to the Register.

In 2021, the typical California rental unit had 2.73 people – the highest in the nation. No. 2 was Hawaii at 2.67, then Utah at 2.51, Nevada at 2.49 and Mississippi at 2.45.

— Dana Bartholomew

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