The 7 Most Affordable Places to Live in the Bay Area

The 7 Most Affordable Places to Live in the Bay Area

June 27, 2020

San Francisco is an incredible destination for locals and tourists alike, offering numerous entertainment venues, cultural attractions, scenic parks, specialty coffee shops, and most importantly, ample opportunities. The S.F. Bay Area’s booming tech industry provides many appealing jobs, so young professionals are constantly moving to the region.

But the Bay is also home to some of the most expensive cities in California—and other cities in the region are experiencing similar real estate trends—so if you’re looking to rent or buy a home here, the process can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are still some cities with cheap rent in the Bay Area

The cheapest Places to Live Near San Francisco

We used data from real estate company Zumper to find the
best affordable places to live in California that are located near the iconic city of San Francisco.

Located along the scenic Carquinez Strait, Vallejo is the cheapest city to live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Distance from San Francisco: 31.9 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $1,450

The largest city of Solano County, Vallejo is the most budget-friendly city in the Bay Area, with one-bedroom rents averaging $1,450. The city has twice been the capital of the Golden State. Besides offering the cheapest rent in the region, Vallejo also has an award-winning amusement park—Six Flags Discovery Kingdom—with over 40 rides that will take your breath away. Other local attractions include the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, Benicia State Recreation Area, and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. 


Distance from San Francisco: 19.8 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $1,500

One of the oldest Spanish settlements in the region is nestled in West Contra Costa: San Pablo. This city is among the cheapest places to rent in Northern California and among the most affordable suburbs of San Francisco. San Pablo is known for its growing residential and business community. Along with public schools, colleges, and health care institutions, the city also offers hiking, fishing, and picnicking in San Pablo Reservoir, Tilden Regional Park, and the Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area. 


Distance from San Francisco: 31.4 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $1,750

Concord is also one of the affordable places to live near San Francisco. The city is located in Contra Costa County, just northeast of S.F., and offers a range of amenities and attractions such as shopping centers, farmers markets, outdoor concerts, and playgrounds. You can also enjoy hiking trails and historical areas like the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Mount Diablo State Park, and Iron Horse Regional Trail. For more family-friendly fun, check out the water slides at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. 

San Jose is still a fairly affordable city to live in the Silicon Valley and is home to numerous attractions.


Distance from San Francisco: 55.1 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $1,970

The third-largest city in California, San Jose is among the most affordable places to live near Silicon Valley. San Jose is one of the biggest technology hubs in the Bay Area and is dotted with European-style landmarks and a quaint historic downtown district.

The city’s nonprofit educational institution, The Tech Interactive, assists with and encourages a hands-on IT experience by offering workshops, labs, books, and more. Other top South Bay attractions include the Winchester Mystery House, Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, Children’s Discovery Museum, and Filoli Historic House and Garden. 


Distance from San Francisco: 14.3 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $2,210

The city of Alameda doesn’t just offer cheap apartments in the Bay Areait also serves as an amazing place to live. With its mix of urban and suburban environments, it offers something for everyone: highly rated public schools, a beautiful year-round climate, family-friendly parks, windsurfing destinations, and gourmet restaurants. Even better, it has a tight-knit community, various educational opportunities, and commute options with two ferry terminals.

Other Alameda attractions include the USS Hornet - Sea, Air, and Space Museum (which features exhibits from the NASA Apollo Moon exploration mission), the Pacific Pinball Museum, and Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. If you want to spice up your Sundays in Alameda, you can view the aquarium and marine life exhibits at the Crab Cove Visitor Center, then linger until closing to watch the gorgeous sunset.


Distance from San Francisco: 35 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $2,360

Tucked between the rolling hills of the Tri-Valley region, Dublin is a great city to live in. It is affordable, safe, and family-friendly. Housing in the city is thriving, new restaurants and businesses are always opening, and shops are being constructed on every street. The commute to San Francisco is easy, too, thanks to two nearby BART stations.

There is also an incredible range of opportunities for outdoor adventure, with steep canyons, lush biking trails, and wonderful parks surrounding the city. The climate is pleasant year-round, but if it gets too hot, you can chill at the Emerald Glen Park and the Dublin Wave Waterpark.  

The charming town of Walnut Creek boasts acclaimed restaurants, chic shops, and ample entertainment, making it a top place to live.


Distance from San Francisco: 25.3 miles
Average one-bedroom monthly rent: $2,390

Walnut Creek is another option for those seeking affordable apartments in the Bay Area. The city is in the East Bay, with easy access to many major cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose. Among the biggest advantages is its accessibility by BART, but Walnut Creek also offers a charming downtown, historical buildings, first-class shops, restaurants, standout coffee shops, cultural attractions, entertainment venues, and parks.

Spend your Walnut Creek weekend roaming the Gardens at the Heather Farm to enjoy the sweeping view of flowers, or head to the Ruth Bancroft Gardens & Nursery to see the collection of more than 2,000 cactus, succulents, trees, and other wonders. 

Would you move to one of these cities in the Bay Area? Let us know in the comments below!


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  • Ray Asmussen | Oct, 21

    $2k a month is affordable? A single person not working in tech is gonna have a hell of a time living by themselves. You shouldn't have to make six figures to rent a 1 bdrm apartment. Reply

    • Barbara W. | Dec, 17

      Agreed, but people are doing it...we live in a 1 BR/1.5 bath in Santa Monica and moved in back in 2011, so our rent is still fairly reasonable, though even with "rent control," at 1% (for a place that is a mile from the ocean (and a block to a view of it), our rent is now just over $2K...that said, however, the unit next to us, also a 1 BR, was remodeled and this not-yet-30-something young woman is renting it for $3500/month...I think she may be in real estate as her line of work (thin walls for such pricey digs--we hear her often), but even so, it blows my mind that someone with that kind of coin for a monthly rental is not just buying a condo, which could be had for the equivalent of her monthly payment. Reply

      • Frank De Paz | Jan, 5

        I,m here in AZ, I have a 2315sqft home with 8513sqft property. 3 bedrooms, living room, family room, den, two car garage and pay $1297 per month on my mortgage. Home was purchased for 241K. Great neighborhood too. You should ditch CALIFORNIA as many of us have. You'll love it here. Zillow the 85338 Zip Code Reply

        • Tom | Jan, 13

          What kinda jobs out there? Reply

        • Salman Rahman | Jan, 19

          Hey Frank. Happy to move there if you have any contacts to get a job and sponsorship as a canadian. got any referrals? Reply

        • Pitnick | Apr, 4

          How many blocks is it from the ocean? Reply

    • Shirley Ann Guardado | Feb, 23

      Right This sucks Next I’ll be homeless 😠 Reply

  • Keisha J | Feb, 17

    As a San Francisco native it’s sad to see areas that used to be cheap being gentrified. First we can’t afford San Francisco, and move to a cheap Bay Area suburb from being pushed and priced out. then tech leaves San Francisco and moves into affordable suburbs. Now we are being pushed out of affordable suburbs. It’s sad to see how this dynamic is able to function under our government. It’s like a virus that continues to spread. Reply

  • Ranjana | Apr, 4

    I’m a mom of 3 kids ages 12 & under. I was born & raised & am currently living in the East Bay (currently Berkeley) & I’m going through a divorce. I earn about $5800/mo gross at my job in Oakland and I pay about 90% of our family’s expenses. My husband got the super homie hook-up at the house we have been renting for the past 7.5 years and his friend has never raised the rent on us, so I’ve been able to comfortably afford rent thanks to this. Unfortunately, my relationship with my husband is incredibly, incredibly toxic and I need to move out. I spend hours looking for places to move myself and my kids to and I cannot find anything that I can afford. It’s so disheartening. Life at home is hell but I don’t see a way out which wouldn’t cause me to struggle financially. Reply

    • Daniel | Apr, 10

      Just keep on trying Reply

    • Amy | Apr, 14

      Keep looking for something that you can afford. It may mean moving to another area. Nothing is worth your mental health which also impacts your physical health. Reply

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