Californians Pay Highest Median Rent: Census

Nationwide median rent is $602 a month

For Rent sign at apartment building
Californians Pay Highest Rents in US, Census Finds. George Rose/Getty Images

Think your rent is high? Try renting in Irvine, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara or Fremont, California, where median gross rents all top $1,200 a month according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

California cities claimed nine out-of-ten spots on Census 2000's list of highest rents among large U.S. cities. The only non- California city in the top high-rent tier was Stamford, Connecticut, at $1,007 a month.

Irvine, California reported the highest median rent in the nation at $1,272 a month. Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, California ran a close 2nd and 3rd at $1,270 and $1,238, respectively.

Renters in Brownsville, Texas, and Erie, Pennsylvania paid the lowest monthly rents at $405 and $424 a month, respectively. Nationwide, the median gross rent was $602.

According to Housing Costs of Renters: 2000, median gross rent in Hawaii ($779) surpassed that of all other states, just as it did in 1990. New Jersey ($751) was second and California ($747) was third.

Renters in California led the nation in the share of their incomes spent on rent 27.7 percent. Renters in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming spent the lowest share 23.4 percent or less.

Proportion of Income Spent on Rent Decreases

For the first time in 50 years, the proportion of household income spent on rent decreased between decades, from 26.4 percent in 1990 to 25.5 percent in 2000.

The decrease occurred in almost every state, with the largest declines widely scattered: Michigan in the Midwest; Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi in the South; and New Hampshire in the Northeast.

Other highlights of the Census rent report include:

  • Median monthly rents were lowest in West Virginia ($401), North Dakota ($412) and South Dakota ($426).
  • Colorado, Idaho and Utah experienced increases of more than 20 percent in median gross rent between 1990 and 2000. Rates, adjusted for inflation, rose by 10 percent or more in another four states: Arizona, Montana, Oregon and Washington.
  • Connecticut and Rhode Island were the only states posting double-digit percentage decreases in median gross rent, at around 11 percent.
  • Single-race African-American householders and those with a householder classified as two or more races paid the highest proportion of their income (27.6 percent) for rent. Single-race white householders paid the lowest (24.8 percent). Hispanic households were above the national average (27.0 percent).
  • Rent was highest for single-family attached units ($688), which generally were townhouses, condominiums, and row houses. The median for one-family detached houses was $648.

The Census Bureau defines gross rent as the amount of rent, plus the estimated average monthly cost of fuel and utilities. The data are based on the sample of households responding to the census long form. Nationally, about 1-in-6 housing units were included in the sample.

Ten Highest Rent Cities

Irvine, Calif. - $1,272
Sunnyvale, Calif. - $1,270
Santa Clara, Calif.

- $1,238
Fremont, Calif. - $1,196
Thousand Oaks, Calif. - $1,131
San Jose, Calif. - $1,123
Daly City, Calif. - $1,074
Simi Valley, Calif. - $1,058
Stamford, Conn. - $1,007
Huntington Beach, Calif. - $ 985

Ten Lowest Rent Cities

Brownsville, Texas - $405
Erie, Pa. - $424
St. Louis, Mo. - $442
Louisville, Ky. - $443
Cincinnati, Ohio - $444
Birmingham, Ala. - $446
Dayton, Ohio - $448
Springfield, Mo. - $452
Evansville, Ind. - $454
Laredo, Texas - $454