New Oakland apartments push rents higher than other Bay Area cities

Move over San Jose — with an influx of new high-rise apartments, Oakland is now a more expensive city for renters.

Oakland one-bedroom rents rose 5.1 percent last year, edging past San Jose in November as the second most expensive Bay Area city behind San Francisco for apartment dwellers, according to real estate listing site Zumper.

The median price for a one-bedroom in Oakland climbed to $2,470 a month, and a two-bedroom hit $2,990, topping San Jose metro apartment prices in both categories.

San Francisco remained the most expensive city in the U.S., with the median one-bedroom going for almost $3,500 a month, according to Zumper. Year-over-year prices dropped in both S.F. and San Jose. Zumper analyst Crystal Chen said the rise in the Oakland market could be attributed to renters looking to escape high prices in San Francisco.

The higher rents also reflect the surge of new luxury apartment towers going up in Oakland, housing advocates and analysts say. Still missing — the affordable units for middle and low income residents.

In the last two years, about 2,700 apartments have opened in Oakland, according to an analysis of large complexes by Rent Cafe. About 90 percent of new Oakland apartments are considered either luxury or high-end, with some units having modern appliances, sweeping views, high-tech exercise rooms, rooftop decks and fire pits.

Although some buildings offer one- or two-month rent discounts, prices for the new units quickly exceeded rates in older buildings. Rent Cafe found demand for luxury apartments drove up prices in that category by 3 percent during the last year.

The number of high-income renters in Oakland earning more than $150,000 grew by 173 percent between 2014 and 2018, according to a Rent Cafe analysis. But overall, the total number of renters grew just 2 percent during the same period — suggesting high-income renters are pushing out low-income residents.

“The spillover effect caused by the sky-high prices in the metro area’s core city is quite visible, as more and more renters try to relocate to more affordable nearby cities,” said Rent Cafe analyst Sanziana Bona.

As the high rise building boom has pushed the Oakland skyline upward, long-time residents’ angst over gentrification has grown.

Eduardo Torres, a regional coordinator for Tenants Together, said pressures on low-income residents have been growing in recent years. The renter-rights organization has seen more complaints and pleas from East Bay residents facing evictions and simply being priced out of the homes, he said.

The new apartments and condos have added to the city’s limited housing stock yet driven up prices for long-term residents. “You see more and more families being pushed out to other parts of the state,” he said. “This past year has been very busy for us.”

In other parts of the Bay Area, rents have largely stabilized from the previous year, according to a Zumper analysis. Rents in San Jose fell 1.2 percent to $2,450 for a one-bedroom and remained flat at $2,900 for a two-bedroom. San Francisco rents fell 2 percent to $3,490 for a one-bedroom and dropped 4.7 percent to $4,500 for a two-bedroom.

San Francisco rents are roughly 18 percent higher than New York and 40 percent higher than Boston — the second and third priciest cities in the U.S.

Across the country, apartment costs increased slightly this year. The national average is about half what Bay Area residents pay: The median price for a one-bedroom checked in at $1,230, with a two-bedroom listed for $1,465, according to Zumper.

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