Renters in Los Angeles have “suffered the most” than those of any other American city, according to a recent study reported on today by LA Weekly. The report by Apartment List awards our city that dubious superlative for having the greatest disparity between how fast rental prices are increasing and the nearly stagnant status of wages.
On average, LA rents have increased by 55 percent since 1980, while real incomes have only risen 13 percent. This is in contrast to cities like San Francisco, where average rents are somewhat higher than we pay, but median renter income has shot up by 50 percent in the same span of time. Only two cities in the study had wage growth that outpaced their rent hikes: Las Vegas and Austin. Flat wages, rising rent prices and increased student debt all contribute to the report’s conclusion that the share of what they label “cost-burdened renters” has doubled nationwide since 1960.
Cities that have fared best in keeping rental prices moving roughly in tandem with wages are ones where investments have been made in recent years for building more housing, including dense apartment developments. While LA is moving in that direction, it would take a lot more high-rise apartment buildings for there to be enough supply to bring costs down—and that is something a lot of Angelenos have made clear they don’t want. To attack the problem from the other direction, the new higher minimum wage seeks to boost incomes, but is unlikely to bring the ‘rent cost’ and ‘income growth’ lines on the graph dramatically closer in the near future.