Los Angeles, CA

Is It Just Too Expensive to Live in L.A. Anymore?

Elle Silver

From the high cost of housing, to the cost of childcare and even the expensive sales tax, Los Angeles is not an affordable city. People are leaving.

For years, people came to Los Angeles in search of a better life. They sought sunny weather and beautiful people. They wanted fame and fortune.

They hoped to reinvent themselves and find opportunity. People used to come to L.A. to improve their lot.

But is that even possible anymore?

The median household income in this city is $62,142. And yet, a family of four needs an income of $87,239 to survive in L.A.

People think they'll come to Los Angeles and live in a place like this...

Sofia Vergara's home in Beverly HillsSource: CelebrityHomes.eu

...only to end up struggling to pay for a place like this:

The kind of house most people live in in Los Angeles.Source: Quora

The biggest barrier to living well in L.A. is the cost of housing. According to Zillow, the typical price of a home in Los Angeles is currently $882,150.

Even if a family can only afford to rent, still the cost is high. The average rent of an apartment in L.A. is $2,450/month. In safer neighborhoods with better schools, the price will be even steeper.

The fantasy of a Shangri-La on the Pacific doesn't exist. People think the whole city is like Beverly Hills.

It's just not true. Instead, the city is a smoggy, congested urban sprawl where many families hardly manage to scrape by.

This isn't only the case in Los Angeles. A new study by the United Ways of California reports that a third of households are struggling to make ends meet throughout the state.

The study, called Struggling to Move Up: The Real Cost Measure in California 2021, notes that it's not just high rents and mortgages that are strangling families. It's also the cost of childcare.

Parents need somewhere to leave their children when they work. Daycare and after-school care are pricey in Los Angeles. At least good care is.

Free care is available, but as someone who has put my kids in that type of care, I wouldn't recommend it. My kids always hated the free and low-income programs I placed them in.

I inevitably had to bite the bullet and pay for more expensive care after my kids complained of sitting around in a room with a bunch of other children after school, doing nothing until I arrived to clock them out.

Where we live, that means paying $450 per month per child for after-care. Of course, that doesn't include before-school care, which costs another $100. That's a thousand extra dollars a month I have to come up just to be able to work.

Add to that the high rent I pay. These costs are made only worse by the exorbitant sales tax in Los Angeles: 9.25%.

It should surprise no one that research shows that people are moving away from this city. According to The Los Angeles Times, between June 2019 and July 2020, L.A. County lost over 74,000 people.

This was the greatest net loss of people than in any other California county during the same time. Again, the reason cited for this exodus was the lack of affordable housing.

And for those who do stay in L.A., according to the second annual USC Dornsife-Union Bank LABarometer livability survey released this past June, these residents are less satisfied with their quality of life compared to people in the rest of the U.S.

The study also revealed that 10% of this city's inhabitants plan to leave L.A. County within the next year.

Sure, the pandemic has influenced this. People's lives have been upended, forcing them to think about what really matters. By working remotely, they've seen they no longer have to live in L.A. to keep their jobs.

People have decided enough is enough. They want a more affordable city.

I can understand this because I've thought this, too.

Why do I stay?

I would also like to leave Los Angeles. I know I could be renting a much larger house for a fraction of what I pay in L.A. in a city in a different state. So why don't I leave L.A.?

I stay because my ex-husband is here and my kids need their father. My current partner's mother lives in Los Angeles as well. Moving would also upend her life.

My children are settled in their schools and don't want to leave their friends, so I stay. But as soon as I can, I will leave, too.

I will seek everything I once expected to find in L.A. somewhere else.

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Elle Silver is a divorced relationships expert. Her work has been featured in Playboy, HuffPost, Narrative, XOJane, Mamamia, Your Tango, and Medium.

Los Angeles, CA

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