July 14, 2024
Southern California's best cities to be a renter cost an average 12% more than lower-ranked places.

“How expensive?” tracks measurements of California’s totally unaffordable housing market.

The pain: Southern California’s best cities to be a renter cost an average 12% more than lower-ranked places.

The source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed WalletHub’s grades scoring the value of being a tenant in 182 US cities – including 18 in Southern California. This metric compares a benchmark for costs with a yardstick for livability to create an overall ranking. Then we contrasted those grades with typical rents for 2024’s first half as tabulated by Zillow.

The pinch

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Ponder how WalletHub’s scorecard ranks the 18 Southern California cities – the best 9 in overall score compared to the worst 9. Then let’s look at cost vs. quality of life.

Now, no renter should be surprised that local pricing ranked poorly on a national basis.

Southern California’s top 9 cities averaged a No. 137 national ranking for “affordability” – that’s far below the 182-city midpoint. And the bottom 9 averaged even worse at 167.

Conversely, Southern California’s quality of rental life graded well.

The top 9 cities averaged a high No. 27 ranking for livability. And even the bottom 9 averaged an above-average 60.

But there’s a real cost to the region’s rental upper crust.

Using Zillow rents, tenants in these top nine Southern California cities pay the landlord an average $2,186 compared with $1,950 in the bottom 9. That’s an extra $236 a month for what one scorecard saw as the “best” locally.

Pressure points

Irvine was Southern California’s top rental spot, by WalletHub’s math, ranking No. 22 overall nationally.

The city was graded a below-par No. 109 for affordability out of the 182 US cities but 10th-highest nationwide for quality of life. And if Irvine’s your place, Zillow says typical rents run $2,390 a month.

At the other end of the spectrum, San Bernardino had the region’s worst rental grades. It ranked 19th worst nationally – 167th for affordability and 118th for quality. But note the city’s typical rent of $1,327 was 45% below Irvine!

Southern California’s other rankings …

No. 35 nationally was Huntington Beach, ranking 129th for affordability and sixth for quality. Rent? $2,376.

No. 57 San Diego: 155th for affordability, 13th for quality. Rent? $2,230.

No. 58 Fontana: 114th for affordability, 34th for quality. Rent? $2,257.

No. 67 Oxnard: 86th for affordability, 65th for quality. Rent? $2,108.

No. 76 Rancho Cucamonga: 161th for affordability, 12th for quality. Rent? $2,089.

No. 85 Garden Grove: 163rd for affordability, 11th for quality. Rent? $1,999.

No. 95 Santa Clarita: 165th for affordability, 26th for quality. Rent? $2,170.

No. 121 Anaheim: 149th for affordability, 66th for quality. Rent? $2,052.

No. 126 Chula Vista: 152nd for affordability, 61th for quality. Rent? $2,131.

No. 127 Santa Ana: 164th for affordability, 54th for quality. Rent? $2,128.

No. 129 Riverside: 145th for affordability, 72nd for quality. Rent? $1,776.

No. 132 Glendale: 178th for affordability, 17th for quality. Rent? $2,295.

No. 133 Los Angeles: 169th for affordability, 50th for quality. Rent? $2,411.

No. 137 Long Beach: 166th for affordability, 69th for quality. Rent? $1,848.

No. 144 Ontario: 176th for affordability, 41th for quality. Rent? $1,838.

No. 149 Moreno Valley: 172nd for affordability, 63rd for quality. Rent? $1,690.

No. 156 Oceanside: 179th for affordability, 53rd for quality. Rent? $2,054.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]