While it doesn’t hold a candle to the madness of New York, Los Angeles is considered to be a city in a rental crisis. It’s one of the few cities in America (the world maybe?) where buying a home is a pricier long-term option than renting. A recent study puts Los Angelenos spending 47% of their income on rent, 17% more than the median recommended percentage. It’s doable for single people with roommates and fine for the average dual-income-no-kids folks, but what if you’re neither? Or stuck in the loop of interning or just trying to be frugal and get some debt out of the way?
With an urban area as fragmented as Los Angeles, it can be tough sussing out where LA properly starts and stops, let alone get real information about its surrounding commuter areas. If you’re stretching your dollar but need to stay close to LA, consider some of these affordable, drivable communities.
My prediction is that Inglewood is about five years away from being comparable to the increasing valley prices. It’s minutes from LAX, making it perfect for travelers and right off the 405 and 10. The apartments tend to be spacious mid-1950s charmers, often with pools and parking. While it keeps the prices low, the downside to Inglewood’s pre-hipsterization is that your options for going out locally are limited. Inglewood is home to some incredible mom-and-pop casual eateries (like the incredible Tumby’s Pizza and Compari’s Italian), there’s a dearth of higher-end or nightlife options. Inglewood is also notably not pet-friendly for Los Angeles although you might have better luck negotiating a cat or toy breed than a large dog. The northwestern area is the nicer part by far and is minutes away from Culver City.
Average rent for a one-bedroom: $926
Approximate commute to LA: 20 minutes
If trees and quiet, family living are your jam, you’ll feel right at home in Arcadia. Home to one of the best playgrounds in America, Arcadia is consistently named one of the best places to raise kids. It’s also rated the number one most desirable city in America for Chinese millionaires. There’s a cheerful, small-town vibe about Arcadia, super low crime rate and it’s home to the gorgeous Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. The growing (and affluent) Asian population of Arcadia is earning it the nickname “the new Chinese Beverly Hills” and its Taiwanese dining selection is some of the best in California. Don’t miss the Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, named one of the top ten restaurants in the world by the New York Times.
Average rent for a one-bedroom: $1,097
Approximate commute to LA: 49 minutes
3. El Segundo/Hawthorne
Other than the place where A Tribe Called Quest famously left their wallet, the El Segundo area and its neighbor, Hawthorne, have been off everyone’s radar for awhile. Besides being a very affordable neighborhood, Hawthorne is actually a remarkably friendly and clean area. Of course, the further west you go, the higher the prices, but even when you go deeper into Hawthorne, you’re a quick drive from the beach. Because a boardwalk culture never developed on El Segundo beach, you’ll have the beach practically to yourself, even on a summer weekend. El Segundo/Hawthorne is also home to the most laid-back and convenient Arclight Theater in all of California. Although Gardena on the east end is a safe and sleepy family neighborhood, use caution when you go north from Hawthorne as it gets a bit run-down with heavier crime rates as you go toward Lennox.
Average rent for a one-bedroom: $853
Approximate commute to LA: 24 minutes
4. Long Beach
Don’t you dare call Long Beach a commuter town. Long Beach residents will tell you that they’ve really hit the sweet spot for having great local culture, a deceptively easy Los Angeles commute and enough distance to maintain a low rent. If you could see yourself working locally in Long Beach or you’ve scored work from home, a weekend or off-hours commute to LA is less than an hour. Long Beach is home to a thriving and diverse restaurant scene with some notable contenders for microbrew enthusiasts. As you pass Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Ave, make a stop by the At Last Cafe and see what everyone’s raving about. If the dream is to live close enough to the beach for a morning run or surf, you can find apartments within biking distance of the beach for less than a thousand a month.
Average rent for a one-bedroom: $1020
Approximate commute to LA: 38 minutes
5. Quartz Hill/Lancaster
If having lots of space and few neighbors is your speed, Quartz Hill and Lancaster are a great option. They were agricultural communities as recently as the 1970s and still retains a small town vibe. Similarly, its diversions have an Americana quaintness to them. Bowling alleys, fishing lakes and diners are the name of the game.
When you’re going through Lancaster, you must, must drive down Avenue G off the 14 freeway. Turn your radio off and drive it at 55 miles per hour. Listen carefully and you’ll hear it: it’s the William Tell Overture being played by your tires as they hit specific grooves in the road. (Youtube it here) Like I said, it’s quaint. But it’s peaceful, it’s got clean air and lots of stuff for kids to do and film/television production work is there if you look (Antelope Valley is experiencing a boon of on-location filming where it’s standing in for everything from Anytown, USA, to the Middle East.).
Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment: $656
Approximate commute to LA: 1 hour
The average rent is based off Zillow’s data for a one bedroom rental. The central point I calculated in the approximate commute to LA is based on Century City because, well, it’s central. And it’s not factoring in traffic, so plan accordingly. Happy hunting!