Where are the lowest rents in California? See how Merced, Valley apartment costs rank

New homes under construction along Sproul Court in Merced, Calif., on Friday, March 8, 2019.
New homes under construction along Sproul Court in Merced, Calif., on Friday, March 8, 2019. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Merced and the San Joaquin Valley continue to have some of the lowest apartment rent prices in California, with the average rental rate estimated at under $1,200 a month for most cities in the region.

Still, many Merced County renters struggle to pay for housing every month.

The highest rents in the state – between two and three times higher than in the Valley – are concentrated in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin, according to analyses of July 2019 rent rates nationwide and in the Central Valley released last week by RentCafe.com, a nationwide apartment-search website.

The data averages the rent prices of all market-rate apartments in a city in buildings or complexes with at least 50 units. It does not count subsidized apartments for low-income residents or smaller apartment complexes of less than 50 units. The RentCafe.com reports also make no distinction on the square footage or number of bedrooms in apartment units.

Among the 79 California cities included in the reports, the only cities where average July rents were lower than $1,000 per month were Madera at $908 and Lemoore at $985.

Rounding out cites in which the average rents in July were lower than $1,100 per month were:

Merced, $1,046

Fresno, $1,088

Atwater, $1,098

Bakersfield, $1,019

Hanford, $1,042

Explore the table and map below to search for and compare rents in other California cities. Zoom in or out on the map and click a marker for details.

Red markers on the map denote cities where the average market-rate rent in July was more than $2,500 per month. Orange: $2,000 to $2,499. Yellow: $1,500 to $1,999. Blue: $1,250 to $1,499. Green: Less than $1,250 per month. Map by Tim Sheehan / The Fresno Bee

While apartments in Merced and the Valley tend to cost far less to rent than much of the rest of California, rent affordability remains a concern for many renters in the region, not only low-income families.

According to a report released by Apartment List in September last year, 25.1 percent of Merced County’s renters are severely cost burdened — meaning they spend at least half of their monthly income on rent.

Another 28.8 percent of Merced County’s renters are cost burdened, meaning they spend at least 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, according to the report.

Merced also has a notoriously low vacancy rate, although new housing is being built in the city.

The highest average rents in the state in July were in San Francisco, at just over $3,700 per month. The second- through sixth-highest rents in California were also in the Bay Area, all with average apartment rents of at least $2,700 per month.

The Central Coast city of Santa Maria had the highest percentage increase in average rent between June and July. The RentCafe.com data showed that the average rent there was $1,689 per month, an increase of 2.1% from June’s estimate.