As rents continue to soar across the Bay Area—with the median price of a single-bedroom home hitting all-time highs on online rental platforms over the past six months—what’s the renting class to do?
Not much, sadly. However, according to the SF-based rental site Zumper’s latest compilation of rent prices across Bay Area cities, released this week, there are four Bay Area metros where the median rent is actually lower than the California average of $1,760 per month.
Here are the Bay Area locales where Bay Area locals are living a sub-average lifestyle—and presumably feeling happier for it:
Of the 30 cities ranked on Zumper, Vallejo clocks in at No. 30, making it the most affordable rental market in the Bay Area. A single-bedroom apartment on the site in May averaged $1,380 per month. However, Vallejo is up compared to last year—Zumper records an eight percent year-over-year price appreciation compared to May 2018—but still sits comfortably at the bottom of the heap. The Vallejo Times Herald reported in December 2018 that home prices in the Solano County city are also spiking but still sit well below the median for region as well.
Santa Rosa lost a significant volume of its housing stock during the devastating wildfire outbreak of 2017. But as the most recent U.S. Census estimates illustrate, it also lost a significant portion of its population (due mostly to displacement rather than casualties), meaning that, more than a year and a half later, Zumper’s rent prices in the city are down, declining 6.2 percent year-over-year. That comes out to an average of $1,600 per month for a single-bedroom unit.
Another North Bay community that suffered during the 2017 fires, Napa experienced less degradation to its housing stock but still saw populations decline—in fact, according to the U.S. Census, Napa was shrinking by small margins year over year even before the fires. The decline in rent is small as well, just half a percentage point on Zumper compared to last year, but the resulting median of $1,670 per month still makes it one of the most frugal flanks of the Bay Area market.
The largest city in Contra Costa County (population just under 130,000) is doing its level best to break out, as the median single-bedroom rent price hovers below the state average at $1,750 per month at the end of May. Like Vallejo, this entry is up compared to last year—by 2.4 percent—and it’s still a welcomely below-average Bay Area destination, at least for now.
Livermore just barely avoided making the list with its median of $1,780. In terms of sample sizes, the site lists 85 homes in Vallejo right now, 102 in Santa Rosa, 83 in Napa, and 73 in Concord.
The U.S. Census records a median rent of $1,301 for Vallejo, $1,432 per month in Santa Rosa, $1,546 in Napa, and $1,459 in Concord. That’s across all types of homes, including many that don’t end up on sites like Zumper, hence why the figures are generally lower.
But that data reflects 2017, and the lower rents found in census figures are often difficult to find when renting at market prices.