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Oakland is third-worst value for renters in U.S.

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WalletHub weighs affordability against quality of life

Rowboats on the water on Lake Merritt. Photo by Bond Rocket Images

Already this month the personal finance site WalletHub declared San Francisco the sixth worst U.S. city for first-time homebuyers and dubbed SF and Oakland among the worst cities in America for drivers.

Then along comes yet another WalletHub study, released last week, that ranks Oakland as the U.S. city with the third-worst value for renters.

But some explication is warranted here. In this case, “best and worst” reflects a balance of affordability versus quality of life. And affordability is a measure not just of how much it costs to rent in a city but also that city’s median income.

That’s why San Francisco does surprisingly well in the rankings, despite having the highest median rents in the country.

WalletHub also considered factors like vacancy rates, the average square footage of a home, historic and forecast changes in rent prices year over year, and the number of homes built between 2010 and 2015.

Photo by Richard Lonardo

Oakland has had little new construction compared to San Francisco in recent years.

Quality of life in Oakland and other metros comes by way of indicators like the strength of the job market, public school rankings, rate of violent crimes and property crimes, and even things like the weather and whether or not the state has bedbug laws.

(California, for the record, does, although the most recent bit of bedbug bylaw is still pretty recent, passed through the legislature in September of 2016.)

Overall, Oakland came in 124th place on the financial side and 134th for quality of life, setting it to 148th overall, just ahead of Detroit and Cleveland.

Those who think that WalletHub might be overloading the number and type of metrics in its rankings (“recreation friendliness” is nice and all, but most renters are focused pretty tightly on the rent itself), Forbes’ bottom-line focused rankings of the 15 worst cities in the U.S. back in March acquitted Oakland much better.

Which is to say, it came in eighth out of 15 on a list assessing rent prices as a share of median income. San Francisco landed in the number 11 spot.

Photo by Jeremy Borkat