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Lower rents might cost you more: High cost of housing chips deeply into low-wage earners pay vs. more affluent tenants

Lower rents might cost you more: High cost of housing chips deeply into low-wage earners pay vs. more affluent tenants

The Balboa Bay Club has the highest monthly rent in Orange County, starting around $ 6,000 a month and ranging above $ 14,000 a month.

Tenants in Orange County cities with the lowest rental rates spend more of their earnings on housing than middle-income and affluent tenants in the county’s high-rent towns, a Register analysis of rent and income data shows.

The Register compared city-by-city rents reported last week by apartment tracker RealFacts to Census data on median renter incomes for 2013, the most recent numbers available.

Orange County’s highest rents are right where you’d expect to find them: Newport Beach, Irvine and Aliso Viejo. These cities also have the highest median renter incomes, which range from $ 70,000 to $ 74,000 a year.

But in the cities with the lowest rents – Stanton, Westminster, Garden Grove and Santa Ana – residents are struggling the most. Median incomes in those cities ranged from $ 36,000 to $ 40,000 a year.

“If your income is very low, even if you find the cheapest possible housing, you pay a higher percentage (of that income) in rent,” said Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University’s Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research.

Looking for a miracle

The monthly rent consumes 54 percent of the household earnings of unemployed machine operator Pedro Jose Martinez and his family.

He shares a two-bedroom condo in Santa Ana with his mother and two brothers. His mother works at McDonald’s, so he and his brothers eat lunch there free each day.

She takes home about $ 2,000 a month. Martinez’ brother, Marco, earns $ 800 a month after taxes at an Anaheim medical device plant. A third brother also is out of work.

Their rent is $ 1,500 a month.

“God helps us,” said Martinez, 36, who collects bottles and cans to help make ends meet. The Martinezes don’t buy new clothes and cut back on food, eating mainly eggs and beans.

And, he said, “we look for miracles.”

Twenty miles to the south, Michael and Adriana Gohmann are facing a different type of adjustment following a move to Rancho Santa Margarita from Illinois after Micheal’s company transferred him four months ago.

The couple shares a three-bedroom unit in the Cortesia Apartment Homes with two daughters and two dogs, Hugo and Chance. They’re paying $ 2,500 a month while looking to buy a home.

“For our income, it’s affordable,” Adriana Gohmann said of her complex.

High rent vs. low rent

Santa Ana and Rancho Santa Margarita are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and not just geographically.

A comparison of average apartment rents to U.S. Census income data shows that Santa Ana tenants like Martinez spend an average of 48 percent of their monthly income on rent, the highest rent-to-income ratio in the county.

Meanwhile, tenants like the Gohmanns in Rancho Santa Margarita spend an average of 32 percent of their income on rent, one of the lowest ratios in the county.

Adibi noted that comparing median income levels to RealFacts averages skews the percentages up slightly because the survey doesn’t include duplexes, four-plexes and smaller complexes, where rents are typically cheaper.

The Orange County Register – News Headlines : Real Estate News