Which Neighborhood for Affordable Family Rentals?

Parent Q&A

Family of 4 seeking a rental house under $2500 Sep 4, 2017 (4 responses below)
Next great *affordable* city/town/neighborhood? Apr 25, 2017 (9 responses below)
Moving from Brooklyn - seeking housing under $1700 Mar 24, 2017 (17 responses below)
  • Hi Everyone, We are a family of 4 moving from southwest Michigan to East Bay Area, we have money saved and still waiting to hear back from jobs. We will be permanently moving in June 2018 and looking for a rental house for around 1600 to 2500. We like to live in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, El Cerritos,San Leandro area, with nice areas for our kids to grow up around( ages 2 years old and 1 years old). Looking for a diverse, long term community for our family to join. Thanks to all in advance! 

    Please don't move here unless the job situation is settled. I know that you've heard about how expensive it is here, and about how horrible driving is here, but you really have no idea just how difficult it is. You need to know where your jobs are going to be before you consider where to live. Your quality of life is going to change moving out here, and you don't want to worsen it even further by choosing a place to live that requires a 3-4 hour commute (it may not look so far on a map, but that's the reality of the drive). Your budget may not be realistic, depending upon what you want. I'm assuming a house with at least 3 bedrooms and a yard in a safe, nice neighborhood? You are going to need to spend a lot more than 1600-2500. 

     To see what rentals cost in the markets you are interested in, you should peruse Craigslist. Single family homes in Moraga rent for $3500 and up.  A 2 Bedroom condo (850 sq ft) in Moraga is available right now on Craigslist for $2500.  El Cerrito, Castro Valley, San Leandro may have options for larger single family homes in your price range.   Good luck with your move!

    You'll be lucky to find a studio apartment in most of those areas at the top of your price range. San Leandro is probably your best bet of those areas, but you can also look into Hayward to the south, Hercules, El Sobrante, and Pinole to the north. Clayton maybe to the east. Craigslist tends to have most of the available options, so check on there. I live in Fairview (unincorporated Hayward), our rent is near the top of your range with enough bedrooms for your family to be comfortable, we like our elementary school (even though the ratings/test scores are low), it's definitely diverse, and there's lots of kid-friendly and often free places to go. BUT, if we were to try to move now, I'm not sure we'd find an available house in your price range- though our rent increases each year, the market rates are sky high and increasing. Prepare for the price of living shock- it's a different world than West Michigan!

  • Hello BPN Community,

    I'm in a situation that I'm guessing many of us are finding ourselves in.  I and my 4-year old son currently live in Oakland but the cost of living/housing in the area is so daunting that I am thinking of moving in the next year to be able to put down some roots in a more economically feasible area and avoid changing schools down the road. I'm wistful for the days when Oakland was the hidden gem of the Bay Area. Does anyone know of any up-and-coming places to live? I would love to find a place where rent isn't so insane that I could eventually save enough to purchase a house in the same area, but I'm not sure that place exists. Off the top of my head I'm wondering about San Leandro and El Cerrito (rents there seem a little less than what I'm seeing in Alameda/Berkeley/Oakland right now).  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

    El Cerrito for sure in my mind. Much more affordable but still close to all the great things in the area. Also check out the Richmond Annex area-it is pretty small but because of the Richmond address the prices are lower but very little crime and still close to all that is great about the Bay Area. Also the Richmond Annex area goes to El Cerrito schools which are rated middle of the road but I have friends that have kids in the schools there and love it. 

    The answer is Richmond! 

    We've lived in the Richmond Annex for almost ten years, and own a house there that is much more affordable than similar places in the East Bay.  And we love it.  Richmond has a reputation of being dangerous, but crime has gone way down in the last decade -- I personally had more problems when we lived in Temescal.  Our neighborhood is very friendly, progressive, and truly diverse (including economically diverse).  The shopping isn't great, and there's not much fine-dining (amazing casual Latin American and Asian places though), but as long as you have a car or live close to one of the three Bart stations in the area (EC Plaza, EC Del Norte, Richmond), you'll be fine.  Richmond is also amazingly progressive: we're a sanctuary city, elected a Green mayor, had the first openly gay police chief, pioneered community policing programs, and so on. 

    Check out Point Richmond (though that part is quite expensive), the Annex, the North and East neighborhood, and the Marina (lots of rental housing there).  Message me if you have questions!

    I am a homeowner in El Cerrito, and what I hear from my local renter friends is that it is not affordable (any more). I'd suggest looking to Richmond (maybe Marina Bay), Pinole, or Hercules. Also investigate if you qualify for affordable housing developments in the various cities you're considering (income limits vary by county). Some of them are very nice and well situated.

  • Hello,

    My husband is being transferred to the Bay Area in July. Moving from Brooklyn. I've been reading about the unaffordable housing market in San Francisco and am slightly worried... Our rental budget is max $1700 (ideally less). Anyone moving to Brooklyn? Maybe we can swap apartments? Or can anyone recommend an area or neighborhood that's affordable with low crime? How far out should we be looking? 

    If we can't find a public school we may homeschool. My son is in a French language program and really likes it, are there any French programs in the Bay Area (free, public or charter)?

    Thank you very much!


    Hi and welcome!

    The Berkeley-based ecole bilingue goes k-8 but is pricey. There is a charter French school (free!) that opened last year in Oakland.

    I can't speak to your apartment search but there is a French charter school in Oakland called Francophone Charter School of Oakland. If your son speaks French he should have a good chance to get in. There's also a private school called Ecole Bilingue but it's pretty pricey.

    I think that you're going to have a difficult time finding a decent rental with that budget. Where is your husband's job going to be? There's definitely more affordable housing the farther away you go but you should be choosing areas to look at based upon where his job will be. Certain commutes are much harder than others. For example, the commute from Berkeley to Silicon Valley is hideous and not something that you'd want to voluntarily sign up for. But the commute from Berkeley to a job that's close to BART isn't bad at all (most days!).

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Where in the Bay Area we can afford?

June 2013

I have a 2yo boy and 6mo girl. We moved to SF 3 months ago. We currently live in a condo but need to move out in 2 wks. We nearly got sued because of noise (my son runs, jumps, & hops a LOT). We don't know anything about the Bay Area other than it's expensive. I want to find a place where we can settle in for at least the next 5-10 years. We've been moving way too much -- average twice a year -- not b/c of my son. There are so many factors to consider in finding a permanent home that's suitable for my family and frankly I am overwhelmed. We are looking for a 2-bedroom place around $2000/mo. Their father wants them to go to Murdock Portal and said we have to live in that district. Since it's a lottery school I don't have high hopes that we could get in but he said we have to try. Where in the Bay Area we can afford, is family- friendly, and have good schools? We're also on Medi-Cal right now (their father lost the job he moved us here for). I met a great pediatrician who accepts Medi-Cal from Daly City -- she was very proactive in getting my son help for his delayed development -- we are in the process of getting him ABA. I probably need more advice than on just moving...so I welcome any advice BPN can offer. TYIA Overwhelmed Mom

I would recommend Alameda as very family friendly. Craig's List has a few 2- bedroom apts for less than $2000/month, but you should definitely drive through as well to look for vacancy signs. loved it when I was there!

Check out San Leandro ! It's about 15 miles south of Berkeley, just south of Oakland. Cost of housing is 50% that of Berkeley with better safety ratings and adorable neighborhoods. Excellent public library, friendly people, and a great city overall. We've lived here a year and love it. For really good medical care that accepts medi-cal, check out Lifelong Medical Care. They have several locations, Berkeley's location is very good. K M

Affordable, safe neighborhood with kids?

March 2013

We are currently living in a rental house in an East Richmond neighborhood that is very quiet, but there are no other kids here for my kids to play with. Previously we lived in the Marina Bay neighborhood, which had a similar issue. We know that Berkeley has a lot of kids, but it is out of our price range. We also looked at Alameda but had the same issue. We currently pay $1800 per month for a 3/2 house, and would like to spend about the same amount, but be in an area with other children. I looked at the archives and couldn't find much recent information about neighborhoods other than ones that are also quite expensive like Moraga, Rockridge, etc. I am starting to think we will have to leave the Bay Area (again - we did so for 7 years but came back due to the weather and other issues). Are there any neighborhoods with kids that aren't super expensive but also not full of gangs and drugs? Schools aren't really that important since we homeschool, but good libraries would be nice. Is San Leandro still a nice area? seeking a new neighborhood

You might want to check out the Maxwell Park neighborhood in Oakland. It has lots of kids, a sweet little park, and lots of folks who are active in their community -and desire to improve it. Yes, it's on the edge of some sketchy areas and does get crime. But it's a good place to raise kids and have shops (somewhat) close by. I'm not sure what rents are like, but I imagine it's a bit better than Berkeley/Alameda. Good luck! ~~Wanting the same things for our family, too!

If you are happy with your house overall I would suggest you try other avenues (homeschool groups, enrichment programs) for finding friends for your kids to play with. The housing market is tight right now and you might find it difficult to do better, rent wise.

The issue of kid-friendly neighborhoods is complicated. We live very close to East Richmond Heights and are fortunate to have lots of children on our block. However, my kids (6 and 8) only play with some neighbors, mostly younger. The older kids are busy with sports and afterschool programs and free time is spent with friends from private school.

If you're looking for cul-de-sac culture where kids roam more unattended, perhaps you should look in Pleasant Hill or Martinez. neighbor

We moved to San Leandro last May and *love* it here. We live in the Farrelly Pond neighborhood and have friendly neighbors and lots of kids from two sets of twin babies on our street to school aged kids who play in the street. I go walking in our neighborhood and people actually smile and say hello and often strike up friendly conversations. There are two great parks within walking distance with great play structures. The public library is great - they have an excellent selection of books and it is open a lot, more than most libraries in the bay area. Plus they have great programs - movies for families, puppet shows, science days where kids can try out experiments, and more. (I helped last summer in Children's Services and I was very impressed with all the library had to offer). Running errands in town is very easy, I'm only hoping for a Trader Joe's store one day, but for now, there are 2 within 7 miles of my home so it's not too far away. I checked Padmapper for rentals in the area and they definitely fit your price range. Cost of living here is excellent (half of Berkeley's). We would come to town and pick up the San Leandro Times to get a feel for the community, as well as walking around different neighborhoods. found our Mayberry

Yes, San Leandro is a nice area - particularly Estudillo Estates and Broadmoor. Drive over and check it out. I live in Estudillo Estates - fabulous for families with children. It's pretty and friendly. There are some rental houses scattered around. There is a nice libary downtown. SL could be an affordable alternative to Berkeley and Alameda. We do have some crime - home break-ins etc. but that happens all around... SL resident

Single mom seeking a more affordable neighborhood

May 2007

Hi, I am a single mom to a 12 yo son. I have lived in Berkeley for the past 7 years. I am looking to move to the North Bay, as I have been unhappy with the public school system here, also.. the neighborhood I live is not the best, and I can not afford to live in a nicer area, even semi-nicer area. (and by that I mean safe.. I live on the Oakland/Berkeley border) I can't even walk around my block without meeting some kind of 'confrontation' be it small or large. I have individuals knocking on my door at night asking for money... that sort of thing... I don't open the door, but I talk to them through the door. My son has some great friendships from kids he has known from Kindergarten.... and some he has just met. They are a great group of kids... he is getting straight A's (but considering the over all study-ethics of the majority of his classmates, I don't know if this is 'in-spit-of' or his actual grades)and he is an overall happy kid... he does complain on a daily basis about the disruptions he faces in class, he is sometimes harassed after school. There seems to be utter chaos everytime I go to the school... I have talked to the principle, his teachers.... and I get the same answer, ''every student has a right to an education.'' I agree... but at what costs to those that WANT to learn and can't? I could change schools.. but which is the lessor of two evils... and being his friends are at this school.... Also, he started playing baseball for NOLL-SOLL and we LOVE it. I would like to find a compariable league in the North Bay.... and the public school system... what is your opinion?

I would continue to work in Berkeley, commuting for at least the next 2 years. I was looking at Fairfax, Novato, San Rafael..... would consider other areas... Again, I would love to stay in Berkeley if I could move to a relatively safer neighborhood... but there is no way. The diffrence in price is $500 and up a month. I have found comparible apartments in other areas of the north bay for the same if not less than what I am paying now. I am just tired of always being on edge.... and I am hoping that a 'smaller' community will benefit my needs more.

Please be nice with your answers, but brutal honesty about how I am looking at things is appreciated also.... I am confused and just want the best for my child. Confused

Friends of ours just bought a home in Lagunitas, Marin Co. They moved there from the East Bay, because they also were disgusted by the public school system. Lagunitas apparently still has fairly affordable housing (for Marin) and incredible (public) school choices. Here is a link to the Lagunitas School District's website: http://lagunitas.marin.k12.ca.us/ You are able to choose from a public Montessori school, Open School or a Waldorf Inspired school. Our friends almost cried when they went to their first informational meeting and learned of all these wonderful school choices for their children. And they will both also commute to UC Berkeley. Good luck in your search! Hope this helps. JOJ

Have you considered Alameda? Generally rent is lower there than Berkeley for nice apartments, and there is a lot of new housing there and move in specials.Your son would be close enough to stay in touch with his friends and your commute would be shorter. I am not familiar with their schools but haven't heard negatives. Remember to calculate bridge toll and gas if you move to the North Bay but work in Berkeley. Good Luck anon

Hi, I feel your plight and I would like to give a shout out to my new neighborhood in Green Valley. I moved here for the schools which are all top ranked, very diverse and almost new. The community is small and there are a lot of East and North Bay transplants like us. It is a lot more convenient and affordable plus the commute is OK if you drive or carpool. There are a lot of fun and safe sports and activities for kids and the parents are very involved in the schools. All places have problems but we can fly kites in the park, buy ice cream from the Ice Cream Man, jog by horses and beavers after dinner, leave our windows open all night long, jump to Napa for pizza, and sit on the front porch afterschool. Little mundane things like that make the rural suburbs heaven to us. The major drawback is the lack of diversity amongst the teaching staff and a lack of large regional parks. Those are the things we miss most about Berkeley. Urban Single Mom in the Burbs