Large apartment complexes account for 28% of California rental market

Mid-sized properties hold 36% of renters, while single-family homes hold 34%

Big Apartment Complexes Make Up 28% of California Rentals
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Large apartment complexes house about a quarter of renters across California, with the bulk of the state’s tenants living in small buildings owned by mom-and-pops.

The largest California rental complexes, those with 20 or more units, were home to 1.65 million households last year, the Orange County Register reported, citing U.S. Census Bureau figures.

That’s first among the states and 15 percent of the 11.4 million big-complex tenants nationwide. Next was New York at 1.57 million and Texas at 1.1 million.

The large complexes in California held 28 percent of the state’s 6 million renting households, which ranks eighth among the states and barely above the nation’s 25 percent average.

The big complexes hold nowhere near the portion of renters compared with states dominated by giant landlords, according to the Register.

In the District of Columbia, big complexes hold 55 percent of all renters, followed by Minnesota at 45 percent and New York and North Dakota at 44 percent.

The lows were Mississippi at 9 percent, followed by Arkansas and Alaska at 10 percent.

Owners of larger apartment complexes, typically big institutional investors, tend to cater to higher-income renters, according to the Register. Owners of smaller complexes tend to value tenant retention over income maximization, so rents at their complexes increase relatively gradually.

Roughly three-quarters of California renters live in mid-sized complexes of between two to 19 units, home to 2.1 million households. Such mid-sized properties hold 36 percent of Golden State renters, but are more popular elsewhere. California’s share ranks 14th-lowest and runs below the 39 percent national average.

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The top states for modest-sized complexes were Massachusetts at 58 percent of all rentals, followed by Rhode Island at 57 percent, and Vermont at 55 percent.

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The lows were in Hawaii at 28 percent, followed by Minnesota at 29 percent and North Dakota and Arizona at 31 percent.

In California, 2 million California renter households — or 34 percent of Golden State renters — live in attached or detached single-family homes, No. 1 among the states. They account for 14.2 million households in the U.S. Next was Texas at 1.3 million, and Florida at 897,000.

Mobile homes, recreational vehicles and boats contain 128,500 renting households, or 2 percent of the state’s renters.

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council approved a study of which apartment owners should qualify for the city’s aid packages to mom-and-pop landlords. A report is expected this month or early next year.

The request for the study took place after the council voted to approve a rent increase up to 4 percent on rent-controlled units starting Feb. 1. The hike takes place after three years of freezes on evictions and rent hikes during the pandemic. 

— Dana Bartholomew