A new job and potentially a new city likely means that you are looking for a new home in LA; this section is intended to offer you clear, objective, and varied information about living in Los Angeles. Inside you’ll find advice from former corps members, data and general information about the city that will hopefully give you a better sense of LA and how to find the best possible place to live as an AmeriCorps Member.
City Year Los Angeles serves in four neighborhoods in clustered in Southeast LA: Westlake/ Koreatown, Boyle Heights, South LA, and Watts. For the 2014-2015 school year, CYLA serves in 25 schools, which are a mix of elementary, middle and high schools in each neighborhood. There may be variation and additions to the schools CYLA serves for the 2015-2016 school year.
During your service year you will work with a team of your peers at one of our partner schools. The placement survey each AmeriCorps Member completes helps the CYLA staff determine where you will serve, to create diverse and balanced teams. You will find out what neighborhood you will serve in by July 1st. Specific school placements are revealed during the 2nd week of training after you service begins on August 3rd.
In addition to your school site, you will occasionally work at the City Year Los Angeles Headquarters office, which is centrally located downtown. You will come to the office to register for the program as well as for many trainings days, after-service meetings, and professional development sessions throughout the year.
Santee here with the #ThursdayTakeover for the week! We wouldn't be able to SOAR through the day without our tasty treats from Ibarra Bakery! #ThursdayTakeover #SoaringWithSantee #makebetterhappen #tasty #treats
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Where should I live?
In order to find the best living situation, there are multiple factors to consider. It is important to be honest with yourself when thinking through your housing options, because a difficult living situation can make your City Year experience more stressful. The only person who can answer these questions for you is you!
How much are you willing to pay for housing? You will likely get around $1000 each month after taxes for your stipend (your take home amount is dependent on your tax elections, which City Year does not control and cannot advise you on). When considering rent options, think about what other resources you might have and how much you are willing to dedicate to housing (suggested rent is $500-$700). This might seem daunting in a city like LA, but there are definitely options available within this range.
How important is safety? What do you consider “safe”? Any neighborhood in any city can be dangerous if you act without caution, but some do have higher crime rates than others. We do not recommend living in Watts or South LA, while close to our partner schools, these neighborhoods tend to present safety concerns for members unfamiliar with Los Angeles.
How important is the surrounding location to you? Are you looking for a bustling nightlife right outside your door? Do you prefer a more suburban setting? Do you want to be close to popular sites? How far do you want to travel to get to the grocery store?
Once you've found a neighborhood that suits you, before you take the plunge, we recommend you come back for another visit at night. Some neighborhoods can transform from charming to sketchy as night falls, and if crime is a concern, consult a LAPD crime map.
Who should I live with?
Similar to where you live in LA there is no single living situation that works well for everyone. Some AmeriCorps Members choose to live with other AmeriCorps Members, some choose to live with non-City Year people, some live with family, and some live alone.
This is another case where you need to be honest with yourself about what you think you will need in your life during your corps year. Keep in mind that you will be at work 10 hours a day, which means you will be with AmeriCorps Members for at least that long. The CYLA leadership aims not to place roommates on the same team, but there will be days when the entire corps is all- together.
Be honest with yourself about how you like to de-compress after a long and possibly stressful day. If you like to avoid what you did all day, living with corps members might be stressful. If you like to talk about it and continue the experience, living with corps members might be right for you. Below you will find some quotes from former corps members regarding their living situations:
Living with other AmeriCorps Members:
- “We are all on the same schedule. You are all usually up around the same time and get home late. Living with ACMs has been beneficial because if I’m struggling with something on my team, I can reach out to my roommates and they can offer really great advice.”
- “It’s helpful to have other people to navigate the city with for new locations”
- “Fun people make the experience fuller.
- ”It’s good to talk to people who understand the life”
- “I can vent to them about CY and they understand. Also, between the three of us, we can always find something to do on the weekends. It makes connecting with the corps as a whole easier.
- “Nice to live with people who can relate to the long hours.”
- “Your life sort of revolves around City Year and it’s hard to decompress after a long day when City Year surrounds you. I like being able to come home, listen to music, etc. but sometimes all that CMs want to talk about is work, it can become pretty stressful.”
- “When it’s an all-corps day it can be too much time together.”
- “The negatives of my living situation pertain more to personal differences than to living with CY members in general. Overall, I’d recommend that living with other AmeriCorps Members is the best option.”
Living with Non-City Year people:
- “It’s not all City Year all the time.”
- “I love that I do not live with other City Year Corps Members because I feel that my entire life would be consumed with City Year.”
- “I live with a college friend, who’s currently doing TFA. We already knew each other, and so there’s no awkwardness when we come home and just need our chill time. He makes a lot more money that I do, so we live in a great location. We both understand the long hours since we’re doing similar programs.”
- “Independence from family and ability to escape from CY life when needed”
- “My roommate doesn’t understand why we get upset when she’s loud and up late. She doesn’t realize how early we have to get up and how taxing our job is”
- “Depending on location, it can be difficult to connect with City Year people after hours.”
Living with family at home:
- “It’s good to have family to talk to after a stressful day”
- “I don’t have to worry too much about groceries and much rent”
- “They treat me like a child”
- “Living with grandparents can be difficult because of differences in schedules”
- “Family doesn’t understand why I have so little time available or why I’m tired and just want to relax when I’m home”
- “Living with my family saves me money, but I have to commute from Ventura every day, so what I save in money costs me in free time”
Sharing a room within an apartment:
- “We can live in a nicer place because of lower cost”
- “Living with multiple roommates saves a lot of money”
- “Lack of privacy”
How much should I spend?
Of course, budget is always a consideration. When searching for your apartment in Los Angeles, consider your budget carefully. Housing will more than likely be your largest expense but that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank.
Start with the right mind set: As mentioned earlier, you’ll be averaging about $1,000 a month after taxes are taken out of your paycheck. Don’t come to LA thinking you’ll be living in the trendiest neighborhoods nestled in with all the celebrities. It’s safe to say that you should save one paycheck a month to spend solely on rent and utilities. On average, corps members spend between $400-$500 dollars a month on rent.
Do the leg work: Know your price range. Don’t be afraid to crunch the numbers and be sure to be realistic. Consider all sources of income and be comprehensive about what expense you will have. If you have a number in mind, start searching a little above that number. Why? Well, some apartment rentals in Los Angeles will include utilities and extras like cable, internet connectivity, water, etc. You'll usually pay a little bit more for these rentals, but the difference it can make in your overall cost of living is often significant.
Consider hidden expenses: When relocating and moving into a new apartment, there are a lot of expenses you don’t think about that can easily add up. More than likely, you’ll have to pay first and last month’s rent (or first month’s rent and a security deposit). This might sound strange, but not all apartments in LA come with a refrigerator or other large appliances. You can often negotiate with your landlord for them to buy one; otherwise you’ll need to budget in renting or purchasing one for the year. Each utility usually has a startup or security deposit fee as well. Again, just think about these things when saving for your move or while budgeting for your monthly expenses.
Unexpected expenses come up, so choosing a place within your means or even aiming for the low end of your budget to give yourself some flexibility is important!
Apartment Search Websites
There are countless websites and services that are available to find your next apartment. We’ve compiled a list of resources of the most common places Angelinos, and our corps, use to find their next home.
Commonly used websites:
- Craigslist is the most commonly used website in LA to find apartments. It’s updated constantly so make sure you check early and often.
- Housing Section — has listings of apartments, rooms in shared houses, roommate requests or offers and much more.
- Look at a variety of posts — to get a general sense of the time frame and what’s available. Make sure you look for places with phone numbers, not just emails as they are less likely to be a scam and you’ll have a quicker turnaround contacting them
- Pictures in the posts are important but not a guarantee – many of the posts on craigslist will have pictures of the apartment but don’t dismiss a place simply because there aren’t any shown. Often times you can find a “diamond in the rough” going this route, but be cautious.
- Meet in a public place — If you are meeting a roommate or landlord, ask if you can met in a public place or during the day, for safety reasons. Bring a family member or friend if possible.
- West Side Rentals Is a close second to craigslist with lots of options, but charges a $60 fee for 2 months access to their site. If you can “borrow” someone’s account for a month, give it a try. Or, try it for a month and if you’re out $60, then so be it. The potential reward (e.g., finding a place you love) dramatically can outweighs the cost.
- Rent is a bit broader rental search engine and not updated as frequently. However, it can still be useful to get a general feel for demand and prices in your area.
- The Rental Girl has fewer listings that are curated by a group of real estate women and organized by area.