Northern California cost of living – How does it compare and how has it changed?

The cost of living in Northern California has only become more reasonable in recent years, at a time when the state faces a serious housing crisis, the cost of living in Shasta County has hovered around the national average.  By way of contrast the cost of living San Francisco is 172% higher than the national average. The cost of living in Los Angeles is not quite as bad, at only 166% of the national average.

Redding even does well compared to other cities of about the same size in California. For instance, Temecula, with it’s population of approximately 100,000, has a cost of living 40% higher than the national average.

Cost of living in California

Strangely enough, Redding has not achieved much widespread recognition for its low cost of housing and other basic services.  This article mentions Oxnard, Ventura, Simi Valley, Vacaville, and Camarillo – all of which are more expensive than most cities in Shasta and Tehama counties. Camarillo, in fact, is almost 70% more expensive than Redding.

And yet Northern California goes underappreciated for one of its chief draws. Many who come to Redding, for instance, do so because they want to raise a family in a larger space than a cramped apartment. Certainly they come to avoid the hustle and bustle of city life, and experience nature, but simple economics is one of the main draws of rural California.

How has the cost of living in Northern California changed?

California as a whole has seen dramatic increases in housing prices over the last five years. In the bay area, prices for houses have risen by several percentage points each year, even as home sales have declined. What’s more, rental prices in San Francisco have gone up by over 1000 dollars/unit since 2011.

By way of contrast, average rents in Redding have not gone up by very much since 2005, and, in fact, rent prices as a fraction of income have decreased. Home prices have increased, but began at much lower levels relative to the rest of the state.

The takeaway is clear:  Cost of living is a serious problem in California, but Redding is very different from the rest of the state. If you want to live in California, but also want a sane, affordable place to live, then Northern California is the best place to be.