California cities lead nation in crowded households

Sunday, June 16, 2002

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The three-bedroom house on a quiet corner looks like any other in this fast-growing Orange County city. But inside, it is anything but ordinary.

It is home to 20 people, a jumble of relatives and strangers-turned-roommates who share a single bathroom and jockey for kitchen time. They converted a patio into a bunkhouse, installed lockers in the garage, bought three refrigerators and hauled an old trailer into the back yard for extra sleeping space.

"I don't like it," said Rosa Gonzalez, who came from Mexico two years ago and pays $300 a month for a room she shares with her husband and toddler son.

New U.S. Census data show that California, already the most populous state, dominates the list of the nation's most crowded cities as measured by the percentage of packed households.

Data was reviewed for cities with 25,000 or more occupied housing units.

California had the highest number of homes with 1.5 people or more per room, excluding bathrooms, hallways and storage areas.

In Santa Ana, 37 percent of homes fit that category, the highest percentage in the nation. Nationwide, such homes average just 3.4 percent of households.

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