BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Rent prices make it incredibly difficult for people to afford a stable home. A Washington Post analysis reported rent has increased by 19-percent in Kern County since 2019.
The median rent in Kern County based on RentCafe, a nationwide apartment listing service, is about $1,300. So, 23ABC sought out what local residents were facing in terms of rent increases. One resident said their rent increased from about $1,200 to $1,400 while another said theirs went from $1,075 to $1,450.
Patrick Johnson, a Bakersfield native, lives with his wife, kids, and his mother-in-law. His rent increased in April and has had a large impact on their spending ability.
"That is a lot. That is a big jump from $1,075 to $1,450. That is quite a lot especially right now," he says. "We are budgeting tighter, not really eating out, saving every little bit of our money that we actually have."
That is the case for so many people across Kern County. But Kassie Mullican with Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance says there are renters' rights people should be aware of (see the full guide below).
"The tenant Protection Act of 2019 did create a rent increase cap for individuals. There are criteria that you must qualify for. Some of that criteria is you must be living in the residency for at least a year or more. Some properties are exempt and others aren't."
Mullican suggests reaching out to see if your household qualifies, adding they have seen some landlords go around this cap even asking tenants to move out so they can increase rent for a new tenant.
"Enough people have moved here for the lower cost of living from places like LA or the Bay Area," explains Ian Sharples, a housing services program manager at Community Action Partnership of Kern. "That means people who lived here before are having to compete with the higher-income earners who are competing for the same units that people already lived here."
On average Sharples explains a healthy market will have a 4 to 5 percent vacancy rate. Anything below that indicates a severe shortage of housing and Kern County has been at about 1 percent since the pandemic.
"Another issue is that HUD calculates the fair market rent but they base it on the previous five years. So rents are increasing at that rapid of rates in the last 2 years that's not really getting caught up in the how HUD understands what the fair market rate for Kern County actually is."
This means the homes a person may be trying to get assistance for don’t meet the qualifications for assistance because they are more expensive than that HUD rate. But there are resources out there
"First we have the Landlord-Tenant Assistance Center, where you can go to apply for services in regards to notices you might get from your landlord" explains Mullican. "And another one is that the [Kern County] court house does have a self-help resource button that provides a lot of guides on how tenants can actually respond to these notices."
The Landlord-Tenant Assistance Center is located at the Kern County Superior Court, Metropolitan Division, 1415 Truxtun Ave., in Bakersfield on the Third Floor.
Meanwhile, CAPK continues to get a surge of calls for their Renter's Assistance Program which lasts until September 30th and pays up to $10,000 in back rent. It covers Kern, including unincorporated areas.
Sharples adds this increase in rent cost plus the low affordable home rates is undeniably tied to the homelessness crisis the county is already dealing with.
"Each person we prevent from entering homelessness saves local agencies about $30,000 a year so this is I think the most cost-effective way in terms of addressing our homelessness crisis is to keep people in the houses they are in right now."
Sharples says that is why rental assistance programs like the ones through CAPK and the Housing Authority are so important.
The CAPK team will be in Ridgecrest Tuesday to help the desert communities fill out those applications and you can find the online version on the CAPK website.
Some tips to help you get assistance quickly:
- People should apply as soon as they are behind on rent.
- Anyone who has been financially impacted by COVID-19 can apply.
- Applicants must meet certain income limits. The income threshold to participate in the CAPK program is 50 percent of median income. Eligible clients need to have more than $1,000 of medical bills or loss of employment due to COVID-19
- Have documents ready for your application: proof of income, a form of identity such as a driver’s license or social security card, a copy of the lease, and some sort of notice of how far behind you are on rent. Those are not needed to start the application, but they will help your application move faster.
California has the 4th highest rent in the country out of all 56 American states and territories. 23ABC took an in-depth look at fair market rent prices for the state and for several counties including Kern to see just how high prices have climbed.
According to RentData approximately 15-percent of Americans qualify for some level of housing assistance. That means there are more than 5.8 million people in California who could be receiving housing benefits from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fair market rent is determined each fiscal year by HUD and is used to set payment standards for federal housing assistance programs like those in California.
Fair Market Rents (FMRs) are used to determine payment standard amounts for the Housing Choice Voucher program, to determine initial renewal rents for some expiring project-based Section 8 contracts, to determine initial rents for housing assistance payment (HAP) contracts in the Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy program (Mod Rehab), rent ceilings for rental units in both the HOME Investment Partnerships program and the Emergency Solution Grants program, calculation of maximum award amounts for Continuum of Care recipients and the maximum amount of rent a recipient may pay for property leased with Continuum of Care funds, and calculation of flat rents in Public Housing units. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) annually estimates FMRs for Office of Management and Budget (OMB) defined metropolitan areas, some HUD defined subdivisions of OMB metropolitan areas and each nonmetropolitan county. 42 USC 1437f requires FMRs be posted at least 30 days before they are effective and that they are effective at the start of the federal fiscal year (generally October 1). Fair Market Rents, as defined in 24 CFR 888.113 are estimates of 40th percentile gross rents for standard quality units within a metropolitan area or nonmetropolitan county.
Taking a look at the average fair market price for a one-bedroom apartment the average rent in California last year was $1,205 a month. However, that average has since increased to $1,854 a month.
Not all the data is in for each county for this year but last year in Kern County the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $743 a month. For LA County it was $1,605 a month. And the most expensive last year was San Francisco County at more than $2,900 a month.