City College students struggle to afford rent; Sacramento sees fastest rising rent in the Nation

City College student Emily Peterson stands in her midtown Sacramento apartment. Peterson is one of the many local residents struggling with recent rent increases. | Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson ·

Heather Roegiers
News Editor


If your rent went up recently, you are not alone. Sacramento has the fastest rising rent of any city in the nation. The average rent in Sacramento went up 9.8 percent in the first six months of 2017, nearly three times the national average, according to a report by RealPage, a real estate technology and analytics firm.

“Eighty percent of my paycheck goes to rent,” said Alicia Alves, who now commutes to City College from East Sacramento. “I moved further away in order to get cheaper rent. Since rent did go up, it’s still pressuring me and creating more stress because I’m a college student, and I’m already working two jobs to afford the rent that I’m at.”

The average rent for a 721-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in the central city is $1,487 per month, according to Colliers International and MPF Research. In January it was $1,346.

Alves believes people are being affected in the wrong way by the rise in property value, pushing out residents who have lived here, creating homelessness and other issues.

“I was ready to live out of a backpack and just couch surf,” said Clare Murphy, who’s studying intercultural communications and sociology. “My rent was going to be increased [to $1,200], which was basically the landlady’s way of making us leave because she wanted to turn it into a B&B. So that ended pretty aggressive.”

Murphy found a studio apartment for $700, but she still has to dig into her tips to make rent.

“By the end of bills and everything, I have like, $150 to $200 for the entire month,” Murphy said. “It’s really just robbery.

“We don’t have any rights as renters, especially because most of the time it’s month to month. They know they can take advantage because they know people need places to live, and so they do because why not?”

Sacramento also has the sixth highest occupancy in the country, with 96.4 percent of apartments full as of July 2017, according to the RealPage report.

“If the rent doesn’t go up for the next year, I might be able to make it,” said Cheryl Padilla, a cosmetology student whose rent went up $85 this year. “It’s scary not knowing.”

“There’s so many people that have moved out of the building as the rent goes up, and they’ve been there for years,” Padilla said. “I don’t want to pay it. It’s very difficult if I have any emergencies, or have to see the dentist, or have any car problems — and I know I have to do the dentist thing.”

The McKinsey Global Institute found California’s housing shortage is costing the state $140 billion in lost economic output, partly because consumers spend so much of their income on housing that they forgo other goods and service.

Emily Peterson, a City College journalism student, says her landlord is sick and in the hospital.

“I’m kind of worried. Is rent going to go up after this dude dies? We rent through an individual, it’s not like a property management.”

Peterson says most of the apartments in Sacramento are being bought up by property management companies, like the kind she rented from before she moved, which she said only looked at the numbers, not the individual people.

Despite renting directly from a landlord now, Peterson still spends 80 percent of her income on rent.

“People in the lower-income strata are spending more than half of their income on rent,” said Lisa Hershey, executive director of Housing California in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. Housing California is a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on passing bills which fund affordable housing programs through bonds and real estate transaction fees.

Tenants Together, a statewide renter advocacy group that provides legal outreach for tenants, is campaigning for more rent control. Assembly Bill 1506 would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Under current law, rent control does not apply to housing built after 1995, and cities that adopted rent control ordinances before 1995 cannot strengthen them.

Critics of AB 1506 say more rent control may scare away developers.

“Apartment builders have to look long-term to make sure their costs pencil out,” said Tom Bannon in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. Bannon is CEO of the California Association of Apartments, a lobbying firm that invests millions of dollars in campaign contributions each legislative session to fight rent control measures. “It would be a disincentive for investors who want to bring new housing to California.”

Nikky Mohanna, partner of Mohanna Development Co., is building a 175-unit complex at 19th and J streets which she says will provide proof for a new type of housing model. Eighty percent of the complex will be comprised studio apartments. Mohanna aims to keep rent under $1,000 for 300-square-foot “micro-units.” Larger units will not have similar price guarantees.
Many feel the situation isn’t being addressed adequately, and that more public outcry needs to be generated on the issue.

“I think we need to get a little angrier,” Murphy said. “That shit would not happen in England. It would not go down in Germany. People would be in the streets raging. We definitely need to organize and revolt: attending city meetings and taking over.”


For more information on the crisis and efforts to combat it, visit: