More than 40% of renters pay more than a third of their income on housing costs, meaning affordability typically affects renters more than it would homeowners, according to Smart Asset. The personal finance site compared median household incomes to rent from 2016 to 2019, while including how the pandemic has affected rent prices, to find the cities with the greatest changes in rent affordability. The top five cities where rent has changed the most from 2016 to 2019 are Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, DC, and Baltimore. Both Los Angeles and Washington, DC tied for number three.
Boston moves into the top spot. Last year, Boston, Massachusetts ranked third in our list of cities where rent is becoming more affordable. This year, it moved up to first, outranking both San Francisco and Oakland, California. Between 2016 and 2019, rent as a percentage of income fell by almost 8%.
Coastal cities dominate the top of our list. The top 11 cities where rent has become more affordable are located on a coast. They consist of five on the West Coast (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland, California as well as Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington), four on the East Coast (Boston, Massachusetts; Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maryland and New York, New York), one on the Gulf Coast (New Orleans, Louisiana) and one on the coast of Lake Michigan (Chicago, Illinois). Across those 11 cities, average fair market rent rose by an average of less than 2% between 2016 and 2019, while median household income rose by more than 19% on average.