Redwood City leads Bay Area in annual rent growth: report

Peninsula city has seen one-bedroom rents jump 32% since last year, according to new Zumper data

Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale with 855 Veteran's Boulevard
Redwood City Mayor Giselle Hale with 855 Veteran's Boulevard (Encore Apartments, Getty, Twitter)

Redwood City has the Bay Area’s fastest-growing rents, with the cost of a one-bedroom apartment up 32 percent from a year ago, according to a newly released Zumper report.

The Peninsula city of nearly 82,000 residents is now the second-priciest place to find a one-bedroom unit in the region, according to the rental startup’s Oct. 31 report. At $2,900 a unit, the city’s one-bedroom apartment market trails only San Francisco’s, where rents are $3,020, Zumper data show.

For context, California’s median one-bedroom rent was $2,101 in September, according to Zumper — underlining how much more expensive it is to live in the Bay Area than elsewhere in the state.

For two-bedroom rentals, Redwood City again ranks second only to San Francisco in price, although the gap is wider than for one-bedroom units. Rents in the latter city, historically one of the Bay Area’s most expensive places to live, are $4,060, while Redwood City’s are on average nearly $700 less, according to Zumper.

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Redwood City’s rising rents mainly stem from a supply issue, Zumper spokesperson Crystal Chen wrote in an email. Its newly built apartments tend to be higher-end, driving up rents, Chen said. Demand for housing there likely won’t drop significantly anytime soon, keeping prices high, she added.

Redwood City building inspectors issued certificates of occupancy for more than 250 new residential units in 2019, all but 10 percent of which were for above-moderate-income ones. The number of certificates plummeted the following year to three, which isn’t that surprising given that the Bay Area sheltered in place in March 2020 and enacted a moratorium on new multifamily construction from the end of that month to early May. While that number rebounded to 520 last year, it’s clear that the city’s apartment developers are still playing catch-up after essentially every mid-to-large-sized project halted in 2020.

San Mateo County, which includes Redwood City and 19 other cities and towns, differs from the rest of the Bay Area in that nearly three-quarters of its land is preserved for open space and agriculture, limiting opportunities for new development. Moreover, over two-thirds of the county’s housing stock are single-family homes, said Diana Reddy, Redwood City’s vice mayor, during the city’s annual State of the City address in March.

Still, Redwood City has been one of the better producers of new for-rent and for-sale housing in the Bay Area during the past decade. It’s the only city or town in the Mid-Peninsula that’s on track to beat its state-mandated housing production goals of about 2,800 units for the 2015-2023 cycle, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year. It resubmitted a framework document last month to California’s Department of Housing and Community Development to plan for an additional 4,600 units for the upcoming cycle after its previous proposal was rejected.

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