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The Most and Least Affordable Cities for Renters

Housing Markets

The Most and Least Affordable Cities for Renters

September 9, 2021
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About 8.8 million Americans were behind on rent payments as of December last year, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. For a one-bedroom apartment, average rents range from $2,756 to just $692, according to an analysis by SmartAsset. When housing costs should account for 30% of income, it can be difficult to keep up in areas where the rent-to-income ratio is high. SmartAsset’s analysis reviewed income and rents across the country’s largest 25 cities to find the most and least affordable cities for renters. Coming in as the most expensive city was San Francisco, with an average monthly one-bed rent for $2,756 and two-bed rent for $3,668.

Key Findings

Income needed varies by more than a factor of four. In the city with most expensive two-bedroom apartment rent – San Francisco, California – the income needed to cover rent ($157,218) is about 4.3 times more than the income needed to cover rent in the city with the least expensive two-bedroom rent – El Paso, Texas ($36,550).

Median income falls short for a two-bedroom apartment in about 50% of cities. In 12 of the 25 big cities we analyzed, the median household income is not enough to cover the average annual rent for a two-bedroom apartment assuming a 28% rent-to-income ratio.

1. San Francisco, CA

Zumper data shows that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, California is $3,668 (more than $44,000 per year). Assuming a maximum rent-to-income ratio of 28%, renters in San Francisco will need to earn $157,218 per year to avoid being burdened by housing costs. By comparison, the median household income in San Francisco is less than $124,000.

2. Washington, DC

The income needed for a two-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. is $120,457. Average monthly rent in this city for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,811, which amounts to $33,728 per year. While the median household income in the city ($92,266) is not enough to cover this amount, it is enough to afford the income needed for a one-bedroom apartment ($87,893).

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