Chart showing rent increases in the city of Santa Cruz.
Renting a studio in the city of Santa Cruz cost an 112% more on average in March 2022 than it did in the same month of 2021, according to data from Zumper.
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Want to rent a Santa Cruz studio? You’ll pay double what you paid last year

112%, 15%, 14% and 9%. In just one year, the numbers tell the story of the affordability crisis.

Rental prices seem to have gone through the roof in Santa Cruz, as anyone looking for good shelter can attest. But how bad is it, really?

Lookout checked out the latest data — compiled by Zumper, a rental management company that tracks pricing — year over year. Zumper compiles its monthly rent reports based on aggregated data from one million-plus active listings across the country, calculating median rents for the top 100 cities by population and an additional 300 cities in major metropolitan areas.

The numbers tell a sorry story. The most eye-opening tale: To land a studio in Santa Cruz, you’d have to pay double what you paid just a year ago. In fact, studio prices are up 112% year over year, March 2021 to March 2022. The current average studio price: $2,495.

Those rented at an average of $1,175 in March 2021.

Why is there that outsized increase?

Single-room occupancy (SRO) units are in high demand coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the new demand hasn’t been met by much new supply. It takes a while to plan and get approvals for any new development.

Take, for instance, the Calypso development at 130 Center St. in Santa Cruz. In January, Santa Cruz City Council approved the project — which will include 233 SRO units — a year after the project was originally submitted. Then, there was an added three-month delay due to a neighbor’s appeal of the project.

While studio rentals are off the charts, every type of apartment in the city of Santa Cruz — from studio to three-bedroom — has increased in price over the past seven years.

Even over seven years, studios lead the pack at a 54% gain.

Bigger units track consistently, with increases of 32 to 35% in that time period.

Here’s another view of that increase.

And what about in the past year itself?

That’s where studios have surged the most, with a 112% increase.

But all units have seen surges that exceed inflation. More space means greater increases:

  • One bedroom: up 9%
  • Two bedrooms: up 14%
  • Three bedrooms: up 15%

Some might say that increases of only 9% or 15% — compared to the studio pricing — aren’t onerous, but let me add a personal point of reference. That $2,495 studio compares closely to what I paid for an entire three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom apartment in Brooklyn when I left in September 2020. Then, a year and a half ago, I paid $2,500. And, yes, it too has gone up — to $2,575, a 3% increase in 18 months.

Rents are soaring across California and the country. Here in Santa Cruz County, even the top end of the market is...