Red-hot rent growth is cooling in Southern California, but that doesn't mean an apartment is easy to find.
The average rent paid in Los Angeles County in the first quarter climbed 2.4% compared to last year, to $1,520 a month, according to new figures out Thursday from real estate data firm Reis Inc. That's roughly in line with inflation. Orange County is up 3.5%, to $1,660.
Both counties rank among the costliest rental markets in the country -- though well below the $2,277 average rent paid in San Francisco and $3,233 in New York -- and also among the tightest.
At 2.4%, the vacancy rate in Orange County is the second lowest of the 79 markets that Reis tracks. Los Angeles County's vacancy rate of 3.2% isn't far behind.
Of the 11 tightest rental markets in the country, seven are in California, including San Diego, Ventura County and the Inland Empire, where rents jumped 1.6% in just the last three months, the second-fastest pace in the country.
That's despite a wave of apartment construction in the last couple of years as multi-family developers try to keep up with an improving economy and a growing surge of young adults moving into their own apartments.
Business groups and civic leaders in Southern California are increasingly calling for more building, both of single-family homes and apartment buildings, to keep pace with growing demand and keep already-high housing costs in check.