It’s hard to feel bad for celebrities whining about being sequestered in their 50,000-square-foot mansions with infinity pools and tennis courts, when the other 99% of folks are crammed into homes of modest size that are now pulling triple duty as living spaces, offices, and home-schooling sites.
Being quarantined in a teeny-tiny apartment can feel akin to torture, when there’s nowhere to go to escape the spouse and kids even just for a few moments. It’s even worse in Santa Ana, CA.
The city, a little over 30 minutes southeast of Los Angeles, offers renters the least amount of space in the nation, at an average 292 square feet per person, according to a recent report from RENTCafé.
That could be insanity-inducing these days, with the entire state of California sheltering in place. Santa Ana also has the apartments with the most people living together, at 2.9 people, according to the report.
The apartment listing site analyzed internal and U.S. Census Bureau data in the 100 largest cities to come up with its findings.
“In this new status quo, the happiest renters would be those who have enough space to reclaim their sense of privacy at some point during the isolation,” says Florentina Sarac, who authored the study. “The COVID-19 pandemic transformed personal space into a sought-after amenity.”
It isn’t that Santa Ana has particularly small apartments, along the lines of New York City’s. But with more people living in them, there’s less space per renter in the apartment.
Nationally, the average apartment provides 526 square feet per resident. About 57 million Americans live in apartments.
“The size of the apartment doesn’t matter that much,” says Sarac. “It depends a lot on the size of the household.”
Where else are renters the most cramped?
There was a lack of space along the expensive coasts. Five of the 10 cities providing the least square footage per renter were in California. Not surprisingly, three were counties that are part of New York City (for the purposes of this analysis, they were counted as independent metro areas).
“Apartments in cities with low square footage per person may be turning into claustrophobic spaces for their sheltered-in-place residents,” says Sarac. “Also, it is almost impossible for them to have a separate area for work, study, and exercise at home.”
Santa Ana was followed by Fremont, CA, at an 318 average square feet per apartment resident; Queens, NY, at 329 square feet; Chula Vista, CA, at 340 square feet; and Brooklyn (Kings County), at 351 square feet. Queens likely beat out Manhattan for the least amount of space per apartment dweller, as it has a high percentage of multiple-resident households.
Rounding out the top 10 were Anaheim, CA, at 353 square feet; Hialeah, FL, at 356 square feet; Manhattan, NY (New York County), at 393 square feet; El Paso, TX, at 397 square feet; and Los Angeles, at 412 square feet.
Where do renters have the most amount of space per person?
On the other side of the equation are the cities providing the most space per apartment renter—a blessing to the mental health of those currently confined to close quarters. These cities tended to be concentrated in the Midwest and South, where home, rent, and land prices are generally cheaper.
Louisville, KY, topped that list, offering a generous average of 731 square feet per renter.
“Less crowded, sprawled cities come with the most space per person,” says Sarac. Once the crisis has passed, renters may consider upgrading into more spacious digs.
“This might mean considering a three-bedroom apartment instead of their two-bedroom unit next time they move, while others might look for places with a small yard or balcony,” Sarac says.
Kentucky’s largest city was followed by Winston-Salem, NC, at 723 square feet; Omaha, NE, at 689 square feet; Kansas City, MO, at 685 square feet; and Greensboro, NC, at 685 square feet.
The remaining top 10 were Boise, ID, at 678 square feet; Atlanta, at 677 square feet; Richmond, VA, at 677 square feet; Raleigh, NC, at 674 square feet; and Memphis, TN, at 671 square feet.