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Bay Area apartment rent increases slowing, report says

Bay Area apartment rents slowed their march upward in the third quarter in a sign that the worst may be over in a region that has been slammed by two years of increases, according to a report Tuesday.

The average $2,006 a month asking price for all types of units was up 2.6 percent from the second quarter, considerably lower than the 5.2 percent jump earlier this year. The annual growth was 9.2 percent, according to RealFacts, which tracks apartment complexes of 50 units or more.

With occupancy rates dipping, RealFacts said, rent increase may continue to slow as landlords face more competition, particularly as more apartments are built.

“Rents have probably topped out, given fact that more inventory is going to come on the market, ” said Nick Grotjahn, spokesman for Novato based RealFacts.

But more than a year of rent hikes have been painful for many people whose incomes have not risen by much, if at all.

“You can’t be a working class person in this area anymore,” said Adriana Garcia of San Jose, where a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment rents for an average $2,330 a month.

The mother of two young children, she and her truck driver husband are living with his mother to avoid high rent. Garcia said his income and hers, from a job at a community college, just covers their bills.

The average asking price in the Bay Area for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment was $1,804 a month, according to RealFacts, but there were big differences depending on location.

“It’s cheaper in the East Bay by far,” said Ron Stern of Bay Rentals. “The Peninsula is ridiculously expensive.”

In the East Bay, the best deal was $1,367 for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment in Contra Costa County, followed by $1,599 for the same size in Alameda County.

On the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, the heart of the booming tech industry, rents were much higher.

In San Mateo County, the average rents asked for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment was $2,095. In Santa Clara County it was $1,919, RealFacts reported.

That is more than a single mom like Heidi Carroll could manage.

Carroll, 36, a contractor at a Silicon Valley company and the mother of a 9-year-old boy, is renting a room from a friend in Sunnyvale for $550 a month. “I’ve looked at other rooms for rent and they are up to $800 to $900,” she said. Carroll said she makes $46,500 a year — a good income elsewhere, but in Silicon Valley she said she’s just getting by. “It’s not like I don’t have any money, but it’s a struggle.” An apartment would absorb too much of her income, she said.

“I make twice as much as I used to when my son was born and I was able to afford a one-bedroom apartment, just barely. Now rents are twice what they used to be and my salary hasn’t gone up that much.”

Cutbacks in rent subsidies and the elimination of redevelopment agencies, which were a source of affordable housing, “have forced everyone to bear some pain,” said Joshua Howard, executive director of the California Apartment Association Tri-County Division in San Jose. But the good news “is that rent growth is starting to slow down year over year,” he said. “That’s primarily because of new rental housing coming on line and more people jumping in to becoming homebuyers. Still, quite frankly, we don’t have enough rental housing in Silicon Valley to meet the demand.”

In fact, it’s cheaper to buy than to rent in much of the Bay Area if you can scrape together the down payment, according Jed Kolko, economist for online real estate site Trulia.

“The Bay Area is expensive whether you want to rent or buy,” Kolko said. “For young people, especially, unemployment is very high. They don’t have a down payment, probably can’t qualify for a mortgage, and if their only option is to rent, they are watching rents rise.”

Shannon Lupton, 32, an administrative assistant at a civil engineering company, has moved in with her mother after her landlord decided to renovate her Los Gatos apartment.

She said she’s trying to save money for a down payment on a home, but worries that home prices keep rising.

With rents of $1,600 to $1,700 for a one-bedroom apartment, “it seems like buying would be the cheaper option,” she said.

Source:Mercury News
Pete Carey

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