Fourth-quarter apartment rents averaged $1,883 a month in Los Angeles County and $1,871 a month in Orange County, market tracker Reis Inc. reported recently. Rents in the region increased between 3 percent and 5.5 percent last year.

By Jeff Collins | JeffCollins@scng.com | Orange County Register
Published: February 15, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Updated: February 16, 2018 at 6:24 pm

A $300 rent hike threw Noemi Hernandez’ finances into a tizzy in 2016, forcing the part-time cashier to apply for food stamps and curtail spending on other things. A year later, her rent went up another $160.

Now, Hernandez and her parents, who share her two-bedroom apartment, are looking to move from the Ontario complex they called home for the past 18 years. Her family never eats out. They don’t shop for clothes. Her father sometimes has to scrimp on medication to treat high blood pressure and diabetes.

“It’s out of control,” Hernandez, 37, said of her family’s rent, which consumes 70 percent of their take-home pay. “We have the minimum we need. We don’t go anywhere. We don’t go out.”

Hernandez’ situation is typical for many Southern California tenants after seven straight years of steadily rising rents and rock-bottom vacancy rates, responses to a recent Southern California News Group online survey show.

Because rent is gobbling up more and more of tenants’ paychecks, some are working side jobs, more than 300 survey responses show. Others have eliminated entertainment and dining out. And in some cases, they had to cut back on food, car repairs, dental work and even medical care.

“Really, it’s going to come to the point where I get two roommates or I move out of state or out of L.A.,” said Burbank renter Allison Murphy, 29, a public school teacher and graduate student who dips into her student loans to cover the $1,750-a-month rent on her one-bedroom apartment.

“I haven’t kept some medical appointments because it’s a choice between a co-pay and food,” added Gina Elliott-DiIoia, 38, of Whittier, who’s 15-year-old daughter has to share a room with her 9-year-old because they can’t afford a bigger apartment. Her husband took a second job as a Lyft driver to help pay their $1,699-a-month rent.

Southern California rent has been rising steadily since the end of 2010, figures show.

The Consumer Price Index shows Southern California rent has virtually doubled since 2000, with rent increasing 5.1 percent in 2017 alone.

Separate figures from market trackers Reis Inc. and RealPage show apartment rents in the region rose between 3 percent and 5.5 percent last year.

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