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Is Santa Monica the Nation's Most Expensive City for Renting an Apartment?  

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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 6, 2017 -- A new report from the website Apartment Guide that shows Santa Monica is the most expensive place to rent an apartment in the nation has received some media attention.

But the reliability of that information could be a little off.

Seeing Santa Monica on the top of the list above cities with a reputation for high-priced living costs such as New York and San Francisco has raised several eyebrows.

The website says the average rent in Santa Monica for a one-bedroom apartment is just under $4,800--more than $200 above New York, which is second on the list.

Apartment Guide says its information is based on active listings for November on its site and its sister site.

The most recent information from the Santa Monica Rent Control Board shows a significantly different story.

The rent board reported last March that the median (often considered a more reliable calculation for statistics) rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica was $2,050 in 2015.

Although the rent board was alarmed by even that price tag and it is theoretically possible rent in the popular beach city has more than doubled in just one year, it’s probably safe to say Santa Monica’s latest reported list-topper is questionable.

But rising rents in Santa Monica are considered a significant problem.

The March 2016 report from the rent board determined a six-figure household income was needed to live comfortably in anything larger than a one-bedroom home.

Also, it concluded that more than 83 percent of units in Santa Monica were affordable only to households considered "higher-income," among other alarming statistics ("Study Finds Santa Monica Affordable Housing Disappearing," March 9, 2016).

"For a median-income household to live in Santa Monica, sacrifices would likely have to be made--increasing the number of occupants per unit, becoming rent-burdened by spending more income on housing than is recommended or by spending less on other items to make the rent," that report stated.

An updated report on Santa Monica rental statistics should be available in March of this year.

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