Head just northwest of Berkeley and you’ll stumble upon the small, charming city of Albany, California. The coastal community is home to fewer than 20,000 people but boasts all of the amenities you’d expect to find in a major metropolitan area. Albany’s Solano Avenue is becoming a destination unto itself. The quaint, pedestrian friendly main street is lined with dozens of ethnic bars, restaurants and shops that are a reflection of the diverse group of people who call Albany home.
Albany is particularly attractive to homeowners and renting families because of its top-notch school district. The schools consistently rank in the 90th percentile and produce some of the highest academic test scores in the state, which some attribute to the prevalence of UC Berkeley grads who ultimately settle down in Albany.
In addition to its schools, Albany offers beautifully landscaped parks and playgrounds, bountiful public art and cultural institutions, and regularly programmed events that cater to singles and families alike. Albany Bulb is one of locals’ favorite destinations and a must-see if you’re in town shopping for real estate. An informal artist colony set up shop on the former garage landfill for many years before the area was cleared and incorporated into the new East shore State Park, but the artists’ influence can still be felt there today.
Albany is easily accessible by I-580 and I-80, and will put you in downtown Oakland in less than 15 minutes and San Francisco in under 20. Local buses connect to the BART system for the 22% of the population that commutes by public transit.
Unlike many East Bay communities, Albany does not have its own local rent control ordinance. That said, there is growing momentum to create one. The City is taking the process slow and evaluating its options methodically. The Housing Element portion of the City’s General Plan calls for an analysis of the feasibility of a rent review board. Creating a rent review board is a step short of creating rent control. Rent review would focus on mediation rather than administration of annual limits on rent increases. It would provide a neutral forum for landlords and tenants to work out their disputes, with the rent review board issuing final settlements that are advisory rather than binding.
In October 2016, the city’s Social and Economic Justice Commission asked the City Council to implement a six-month moratorium on rent increases while it studied the creation of a rent review board. The City Council spent two hours discussing the matter but decided to table the proposal until further notice. Councilman Michael Barnes stated at the time, “I think we do need to collect more data. The data is not the plural of anecdotes.”
The Rent Review Board Feasibility Study is ongoing. Workshops are being held to solicit feedback from the community members. An online survey is available for people who would like to weigh in on what might trigger a review by the board, if one were to be created. Anyone who is interested can sign up for email alerts as the process unfolds.
WHAT LANDLORDS NEED TO KNOW:
- The City of Albany does not have its own rent control ordinance, but is evaluating whether to create a Rent Review Board which would mediate disputes between landlords and tenants.
- A business license is required for all residential rental units in Albany. Rental Business Licenses cannot be transferred to new owner after sale. The annual rental business license fee is $85.00 per unit.
- Buildings with 3 or more residential rental units are subject to a Fire Department and Fire Inspection Fee in addition to the regular Rental Business License Fee.
- The bulk of Albany’s housing stock consists of two- and three-bedroom homes. Architecture ranges from California and Craftsman bungalows to Mediterranean-style residences. There are even a few highly sought after MacGregor cottages.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Albany is home to an estimated 7,400 households. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 39% of households have children under the age of 18 living with them. Only 25% of households are made up of individuals. The average household size clocks in at 2.49 persons, with a median household income of $78,769.
An estimated 48.3% of Albany homes are owner-occupied. The remaining 51.7% are occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate hovers around 1%; the rental vacancy rate is just above 6% -- numbers that are generally on par with other communities in the East Bay area.
According to real estate website Trulia, as of March 2017 the average Albany apartment was renting for $2,825 per month. This puts the average market rent lower than Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda and Piedmont, but higher than San Pablo, El Sobrante and Richmond. Albany rents are similar to what landlords might expect in Oakland, where the average median rent hovers around $2,900 per month.
Of course, Albany rents vary depending on the unit’s size and location. Here’s a glimpse of what Albany landlords currently command in rents:
- One-bedroom apartment: $1,950
- Two-bedroom apartment: $2,800
- Three-bedroom apartment: $4,775
- Four-bedroom apartment: $5,200
- Median, all apartments: $2,825
MEDIAN SALES PRICE
- One-bedroom property: $470,000
- Two-bedroom property: $800,000
- Three-bedroom property: $975,750
- Four-bedroom property: $1,175,000
- Median, all properties: $790,000
Note: Rents and sales prices may be lower than we’d typically expect given the season. Historically, rents and sales prices in Albany are higher when leased/sold in the Spring or Summer.
City of Albany
Rental Property Business Licensing
Information about the Rent Review Board Feasibility Study
Housing Authority of the County of Alameda
East Bay Rental Housing Association