Seeking Affordable Housing in So-Cal Now Requires Relentless Effort

The market is becoming sour for those without the ample resources required to live in Southern California in this day and age. The housing market has reached a new peak, and prices to rent in most neighborhoods, have become borderline outrageous.

How much higher can it go?

When Linda Truong lived in Phoenix, she could rent a four-bedroom house in a safe neighborhood for less than $1,000. Now in Duarte and looking for an apartment – even just a room – in Los Angeles, the Inland area or Orange County, she’s in shock. Southern California rents are steep. The search for an affordable spot often requires a relentless effort. It can seem like a second job – one with no foreseeable payoff.

Truong, 35, does marketing and design for Vegan Printer and SoCal Veg Fest in Fountain Valley. The 76-mile, round-trip commute from Duarte, near Pasadena, in her Honda Fit is “treacherous,” she said, but she can work from home half the week.

So far, trying to find something she can afford – up to $800 a month – in either Los Angeles or Orange counties has led only to dead ends.

The numbers appear to be against her. Asking rents for Orange County apartments averaged $1,753 a month during the first quarter of 2016, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based real estate and economic data firm. That was up $63 a month from the same period in 2015. In Los Angeles County, asking rents hit $1,630 a month in the first quarter, up $85 from the prior year.

At one point, Truong’s search took her to Irvine, where a man who told her he does lot of traveling offered to rent her his bedroom; he’d just move into the living room, he said. “I’m not comfortable with that,” she said.

A studio in the Los Angeles area – she recalled it was in the vicinity of Arcadia or El Monte – had some potential until she saw it. It was about 200 square feet. “It was cramped,” she said. The “kitchenette” was disappointing, too. “It was just, like, a little burner.”

On her wish list: A guest house or mother-in-law flat, or a private room in a home, with a separate entrance. A safe community is a must. Odors of cooking meat would be a deal breaker.

Truong put up a Craigslist ad, but it generated only leads above what she could pay, or living arrangements that sounded too crowded (like a Ladera Ranch woman with a house and five children). Or offers that had nothing to do with renting.

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