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Wages Required to Afford a One-Bedroom Apartment

The Washington Post featured a blog article that addresses the often ridiculously high cost of rent across the U.S., including California, by looking at the wages one must earn in order to reasonably afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

The article features a map showing the wages needed to afford a single 1BR unit in counties across the U.S.

Read the article here.

•••• Resources••••

Here are links to legal and informational resources I used to help stand up to my landlord/property management company when they raised my rent unfairly.

Blog Entries

Santa Rosa Approves Rent Control

Santa Rosa to Condider Rent Control

Absence From Unit

It Was Easier Back Then

If You Ain't Rich, You Don't Count

Gentrification in Rohnert Park, CA

An article in the July 11, 2013 issue of the Sonoma County Press Democrat newspaper reports how property owners are "moving in" to the city, taking over apartments and dislocatiing their tenants via "gentrification" - or more accurately, "kicking the old tenants out to breing in a higher income class to get more money."

Read the article here.

The American Bar Association offers low cost pro-bono legal assistance to California landlords and tenants. Find more information here.

American Bar Assn


February 13, 2017


(Update: June 2, 2016) -- According to, and the Press Democrat Newspaper the Santa Rosa City Council “voted 4-3 to  to approve a move that will set rent control into play in Santa Rosa …with an annual cap on rent hikes for apartments built before 1995 … as well as unfair eviction protections.”

This is good news for renters who are struggling under frequent and hefty rent increases: some landlords have been raising rents as much as 10% per year.

Now, there just has to be a major push to build significantly affordable more housing units.

(May 17, 2016) Hundreds of thousands of Section 8 tenants in California are in danger of displacement and homelessness because landlords refuse to take vouchers or landlords evict all Section 8 tenants from their buildings. Discrimination against Section 8 tenants is a cover for racism and classism and has to end now. This year State Senator Mark Leno has authored a bill to end Section 8 discrimination in California through the Housing Opportunities Act, SB 1053. Right now we need to take action to prevent displacement and stand up for basic fairness. Send a letter to your State Senator to urge them to vote YES on SB 1053!

ACTION ALERT!! send a letter to

Santa Rosa To Consider Rent Control

(Sept. 14, 2015) The city of Santa Rosa, California, is (finally) at least considering rent control. And it's about time. Rent prices in Sonoma County have been rising far faster than wages are able to keep up.

This problem is happening all across the country, not just here in California, but California has some of the highest housing (and rental) costs in the U.S. The supply of housing isn' keeping up with demand. Some esimates are that Sonoma County's available housing is less than 2%.

According to, the median rent for a two bedroom apartment in Sonoma County is $2368 a month - or $28,416 per year. Median wages in Sonoma County, according to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, are $61,690 (PDF file). As you can see, rent for a two-bedroom apartment is almost half of the median income in the county.

It seems pretty obvious that property owners are literally gouging people for rent. Rent control is necessary in order to stop greedy property owners from pricing renters out of their homes.


Absence From Unit

Q: How long can a tenant be away from their unit before it's considered "too long"?

A friend asked me a question: How long can a Section 8 tenant be away from her place before it becomes a concern for the manager/landlord? She has been staying for a week or two at a time with a friend who was dying of cancer, and her manager started - in essence - threatening to evict her if she was going to be "living somewhere else" while receiving help from Section 8.

My friend had only been gone, maybe, two weeks at a time (then returned to her apartment for varying lengths of time) for a few months.

From the H.U.D. web site:
(See Answer to Question 5, on the H.U.D. wbe site, under the "OTHER TOPICS" section- about 4/5 down the page. Also, this information is for the state of Ohio - but it is based on Federal guidelines and, so, applies in all states unless otherwise noted.)

The new Handbook suggests 60-day extended absences be allowed from the unit for purposes other than medical as a guideline. It is not a requirement. The owners' House Rules should define the number of days the property will allow for extended absence from the unit for other than medical reasons. The House rules may also include the requirement that any resident planning on being absent from the unit for a given period of time must inform the managing agent.

Management is not forbidden from entering the unit if there is "just cause" (repairs, regular inspections, emergencies, etc.) to do so. The required notice should be given in the usual manner and entry made after the notice period has ended even if the tenant is not there to receive the notice.

In the case where the resident may have moved to another subsidized property without informing the first property, TRACS (Tenant Rental Assistance Certification System) does assign the HAP (Housing Assistance Payments) to the second property on the MI (Move In) date. So the first property would need to make the MO (Move Out) date the day before. The only recourse for the 1st property is to bill the resident for Market Rent beginning on the day they moved into the second property and place it in the hands of a collection agency as well as reporting to the Credit Bureau. The property may not submit Special Claims for unpaid rent after the MO date.

Page From the H.U.D. Web Site

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It Was Easier "Back Then" ...

I grew up, the first 16 years of my life, in Colorado, with a couple of those years spend in Southern California. I remember, as a 16 year-old kid, with a job, I was able to afford a one bedroom apartment of my own (My parents were wonderful: I was just a very headstrong kid who thought he could make it on his own).

(Check out the "Resources" link on the left side of this page for information for low income renters.)

At 16, I had a summer job paying $600 a month. At the time, in that area, it was above minimum wage (which was $2.10 an hour): My wages were about $3.75 an hour. My rent for a reasonable 1 bedroom apartment with a garage was $75.00 a month. Even at minimum wage, one could afford a such a single bedroom apartment. I earned roughly $550-$565 (after taxes) per month, and even had a reasonable amount of money left over, after paying rent.

So What's the Point?

The point: Even while earning only minimum wage, many working people in the 70s and early 80s were able to pay rent for an apartment (and houses weren't all that much more) AND expect to have enough food to eat, pay utilities, and meet their basic needs.

Today, minimum wage (in California) is currently $9.00 an hour. (Federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour). Before taxes, that's $1440 per month at $9 an hour, and $1160 per month at $7.25 an hour (based on a full 40-hour week).

In most California cities, the average rent for a one bedroom apartment ranges from $1200 to $1500 (or more) for just a basic, no frills, one bedroom apartment (Marin County) or, where I live, $1375 a month (average). People with lower incomes can't afford to live in California without help (unless they want to live someplace like Bakersfield which apparently has a few apartments for around $550 a month and the summer temperatures can reach as high as 118 degrees Farenheit).

As you can see, minimum wage today isn't enough to afford to rent an apartment anywhere except some of the least desirable areas in the state.

It often seems like California's society (especially along the coast) is "of the rich by the rich for the rich."

Sonoma County Low Income Rental Information

In Sonoma County, California, the primary source of financial help to pay rent is HUD's Section 8 Rental Assistance Voucher program, and other programs through the Sonoma County Housing Authority. Section 8 helps people with "low" to "very low" income afford suitable housing. The greatest majority of Section 8 assisted housing is within apartment buildings with multiple units. For more information about low income rent, program, and statistics, see the Q & A page at this site:

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California: If You Ain't Rich, You Don't Count

And nothing says this better than the high cost of rent in California. And not just in California, but across the nation, as well.

This site is primarily for California renters, since that's where I live, but it includes resources that apply throughout the U.S.

Unequal Housnig Opportunity


A lot of "wealthier" people buy "investment properties." Any property purchased with the intent of gaining a "profitable return" is invesemtment property. Duplexes, single family homes, apartment buildings, mobile home parks, even vacant land.

To an owner, such property is a source of income and profit. Tenants are just the individual sources of income which, cumulatively, increase the owner's bottom line. Many property owners view tenants simply as a source of money.

But to most people who rent the property, it is "home."

Money Over People

Since income properties are profit-generating devices, the owner usually has absolutely no qualms about dumping one renter for another, without any consideration for the personal hardships it creates for their tenants. The money is all the owners really care about. Especially when "gentrifying" an area.

In this context, gentrification means getting rid of the old tenants, making cosmetic improvements on properties, then renting them to new, higher-income tenants - all, of course, in the pursuit of ever growing profit.

And often, current tenants have neithter the money nor the resources to fight these money-motivated monsters. The government provides some basic protections for tenants, but in most cases, laws favor the developers and investment property owners (i.e., landlords).

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