Rent-Burdened Households
in the Coachella Valley

Historically high housing costs and low vacancy rates have pushed California’s rental rates to some of the highest in the nation. These rising rental costs have also led to a rise in the number of “rent-burdened” households, those that spend more than 30% of their incomes on rent and utilities (like electricity, water, gas, and sewage). The implications of rent burden varies from household to household; however, it often disproportionately affect low income households with more members who are frequently forced to make trade-offs between rental costs and basic needs such as food, clothing, transportation, education and routine medical services.
In the Coachella Valley, a desert community in Riverside County southeast from the San Bernardino Mountains, 56% of the population is rent burdened according to 2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. This is nearly the same percentage as the City of Los Angeles, which has higher rents than the Coachella Valley. If rental costs are lower in the Coachella Valley than they are in Los Angeles, what is driving similar rates of rent burden? This data story will explore how factors including rent price, income, and family size contribute to rent burden for certain people in the Coachella Valley. 
The map below provides a stark visual of how rent burden affects all areas of the Coachella Valley. Between 40% and 60% of the population are rent burdened in the bright orange areas making up the majority of the map, while over 60% of the population are rent burdened in the darkest shaded areas. Hover over an area on the map to see median rent, median income and demographic information about that area.

"It came down to either pay what I could on the electric bill and put food on the table or go without food"
- Dale Brown, La Quinta Resident

Rental Costs and Income

Rents in the Coachella Valley
Median gross rent, which includes rent price plus the cost of utilities like electricity, water, gas and sewage, is $1,080 in the Coachella Valley. In some of the centrally located resort cities, such as Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, median gross rent prices are over $2,000.
In contrast, median rents in some of the unincorporated communities of the Coachella Valley are as low as $606. Despite relatively low rents in these communities, roughly half of the renter population is still burdened. Low incomes can sometimes provide an explanation for why large numbers of people are rent burdened even in areas with relatively lower rents.
Income in the Coachella Valley
The median income for renters in the Coachella Valley is just $40,453, much lower than the median of $60,510 per year for homeowners. Just as there is a disparity between the incomes of renters and homeowners, there are also large income disparities even within the renter population.  These disparities can provide an explanation for why some areas with relatively low rents have large rent-burdened population compared to other areas with higher rents.
For example, in the Northern corner of the resort city La Quinta (Census Tract 452.15), the median rent is $1,738 - significantly higher than the Coachella Valley median rent. However, the median income for renters in this part of La Quinta is $97,083 and less than a quarter of that area’s renters are rent burdened. Just outside of La Quinta’s borders in a majority unincorporated area to the Southeast (Census Tract 456.09), the median rent price is significantly lower at $644 per month. Despite having lower rents, half of renters in this area are rent burdened, likely because the renter median income in the area is just $25,262.  The comparison of rent burden in these two areas demonstrates the importance of income in determining rent burden in the Coachella Valley, regardless of how high or low rent prices are.

Rent Burden and Race

The comparison between the Northern corner of La Quinta and the unincorporated area to the City’s Southeast becomes even more stark when one examines the racial composition of the two areas.  In the Northern corner of the city, 58% of the population is White and 35% is Latinx.  In the unincorporated area outside of the city, just 4% of the population is White and 96% of the population is Latinx.  While the American Community Survey doesn’t provide data on how rent burden affects people of different races, an examination of incomes and household characteristics between White and Latinx households can show why rent burden is likely affecting Latinx households at higher rates in the Coachella Valley.
Median household income for Latinx households in the Coachella Valley is $43,012, while the median household income for White households in the Coachella Valley is $57,905. This is a substantial difference when considering that almost 79% of households earning less than $50,000 annually are rent burdened, while less than 18% of households who earn $50,000 or more a year are rent burdened. Explore how median household income varies between different households in the Coachella Valley in the chart below.

Within the Coachella Valley, significant disparities exist across neighborhoods, and also across racial and ethnic groups, with the most marginalized families within the Coachella Valley experiencing the most extreme poverty and vulnerability.
- Lift to Rise

Median household income is not the only notable difference between Latinx and White households in the Coachella Valley. On average, Latinx households have 3.5 members in their households with 1.4 children, compared to White households that are significantly older and have fewer than 2 members and 0.3 children in their household.  
The size and composition of a household can have important implications on cost of living. In addition to having a significantly lower median income than White households, Latinx households also have more family members, including children, to provide for. Further, the White population in the Coachella Valley tends to be older than the average population. Because the elderly are more likely to have higher wealth regardless of their income, older White households are likely not as vulnerable to rent burden as younger Latinx households in the Coachella Valley.  

A People Centered & Data Driven Approach

Residents, policymakers, and practitioners are actively trying to combat the growing issue of rent burden in the Coachella Valley; yet they lack full information, limiting effective intervention.  Lift to Rise is a community-based partnership in the Coachella Valley with the primary goal of advancing a future where all Coachella Valley families are healthy, stable, and thriving. Lift to Rise uses a collective impact approach, combining data and the expertise of local organizations to identify gaps by race, gender and other demographics that help address the underlying causes of poverty and rent burden.
As a research partner for Lift to Rise, the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation, is conducting focus groups in English and Spanish to understand how residents are coping with increasing rent burden across the region. The focus groups provide critical insight into the vulnerabilities and challenges produced by rent burden, detailing the coping strategies and trade-offs rent-burdened residents are forced to make. 
Additionally, the Price Center is partnering with Lift To Rise in the development of the Neighborhood Data for Social Change (NDSC) platform for the Coachella Valley. Scheduled to launch in November, the free, publicly available platform will bring issues facing Coachella Valley residents to light through maps, charts, data analysis, and storytelling. Understanding the forces driving rent burden on both a community and regional level helps improve local policies and programs that lead to a better quality of life for all Coachella Valley residents.

Erika Van Sickel
Erika received her Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara then worked at an environmental nonprofit organization in San Diego. She is currently pursuing a master’s in planning at USC with a concentration in design and a certificate in real estate development. Erika is also assisting to investigate rent burden and the resulting sacrifices residents are forced to make. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and is a yoga and coffee enthusiast.

Cover Photo: Noe Montes
The PEW Charitable Trusts. American Families Face a Growing Rent Burden. Pew analysis of Panel Study of Income Dynamics data. April, 2018.
Goulding, Megan. Rising Rent Burden in Los Angeles. USC Price Center for Social Innovation. October, 2017.
United States Census Bureau. B03002: Hispanic or Latino Origin by Race. American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
United States Census Bureau. B09005: Household Type for Children Under 18 Years in Households (Excluding Householders, Spouses, and Unmarried Partners). American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
United States Census Bureau. B19013: Median Household Income in the Past 12 Months (In 2016 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars). American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
United States Census Bureau. B25064: Median Gross Rent (Dollars). American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
United States Census Bureau. B25070: Gross Rent as a Percentage of Household Income in the Past 12 Months. American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
United States Census Bureau. S1101: Households and Families. American Community Survey, 2012-2016. 
USC Price Center for Social Innovation. Lift to Rise Summary Brief. Lift to Rise. 2017.
USC Price Center for Social Innovation. Coachella Valley Needs Assessment. USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. 2017.
USC Price Center for Social Innovation. 2017-18 Annual Report. USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. August, 2018.