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Here’s How Many Hours You Need to Work to Pay Rent In These Cities

City Dreams: Exploring the Urban Landscape

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As renters across the country continue shelling out larger shares of their income to housing, rent affordability has become a hot-button issue in the U.S. But what exactly is considered affordable? The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers an “affordable dwelling” as one that you can obtain for 30% or less of your income (ideally, less than 28%). On the other hand, individuals or households that devote more than 30% of their income to housing are considered to be cost-burdened.

The latest U.S. Census data shows that, today, almost 50% of renter households are cost-burdened. Not surprisingly, a disproportionate number of these households are low-income — a situation that is thought to be exacerbating income inequality. According to a recent report by Freddie Mac, the number of apartments considered affordable for very-low income families in the U.S. dropped by more than 60% between 2010 and 2016. Experts believe that not just higher rents, but also stagnant wages, increased demand for rental housing, and rising construction costs are all contributing to America’s rental affordability crisis.

With rent prices high and more households renting that at any other time in the past 50 years, researchers at Credit Sesame wanted to see how many hours the average person would need to work to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in various cities around the country. Using data from the U.S. Census and Zillow, Credit Sesame looked at all cities with a population over 100,000. It’s researchers found that in some U.S. cities, residents looking for an apartment and earning a median wage would need to work more than two 40-hour weeks to afford housing.

Many of the least affordable cities in the U.S. are also some of the largest; all of them are concentrated on or near the coasts.

On the other hand, the most affordable cities tend to be smaller and are generally concentrated in the Midwest and South:

Looking at the largest cities, affordability varies widely. In Los Angeles, a typical earner looking to rent a typical apartment would need to work more than 95 hours per week. In Memphis, on the other hand, residents might only need to work closer to 35 hours per week. Here’s how much you’d need to work to rent an apartment in the 25 largest U.S. cities.

1. New York, NY

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,574
  • Annual income: $55,191
  • Hourly wage: $27.10
  • Work hours per week: 84.7

2. Los Angeles, CA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,795
  • Annual income: $51,538
  • Hourly wage: $26.20
  • Work hours per week: 95.2

3. Chicago, IL

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,717
  • Annual income: $50,434
  • Hourly wage: $25.10
  • Work hours per week: 61.2

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4. Houston, TX

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,584
  • Annual income: $47,010
  • Hourly wage: $22.60
  • Work hours per week: 62.6

5. Philadelphia, PA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,539
  • Annual income: $39,770
  • Hourly wage: $20.10
  • Work hours per week: 68.3

6. Phoenix, AZ

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,102
  • Annual income: $49,328
  • Hourly wage: $24.40
  • Work hours per week: 40.3

7. San Antonio, TX

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,093
  • Annual income: $48,183
  • Hourly wage: $23.70
  • Work hours per week: 41.2

8. San Diego, CA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,317
  • Annual income: $68,117
  • Hourly wage: $34.00
  • Work hours per week: 60.8

9. Dallas, TX

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,777
  • Annual income: $45,215
  • Hourly wage: $21.70
  • Work hours per week: 73.0

10. San Jose, CA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,865
  • Annual income: $90,303
  • Hourly wage: $45.70
  • Work hours per week: 56.0

11. San Francisco, CA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $4,455
  • Annual income: $87,701
  • Hourly wage: $42.20
  • Work hours per week: 94.3

12. Austin, TX

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,402
  • Annual income: $60,939
  • Hourly wage: $29.70
  • Work hours per week: 42.2

13. Jacksonville, FL

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,062
  • Annual income: $48,256
  • Hourly wage: $23.80
  • Work hours per week: 39.8

14. Columbus, OH

  • Monthly rent (2br): $973
  • Annual income: $47,156
  • Hourly wage: $23.80
  • Work hours per week: 36.5

15. Indianapolis, IN

  • Monthly rent (2br): $818
  • Annual income: $43,101
  • Hourly wage: $21.60
  • Work hours per week: 33.7

16. Charlotte, NC

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,375
  • Annual income: $55,599
  • Hourly wage: $26.90
  • Work hours per week: 45.6

17. Fort Worth, TX

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,299
  • Annual income: $54,876
  • Hourly wage: $26.40
  • Work hours per week: 43.9

18. Seattle, WA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,512
  • Annual income: $74,458
  • Hourly wage: $37.10
  • Work hours per week: 60.5

19. Boston, MA

  • Monthly rent (2br): $2,451
  • Annual income: $58,516
  • Hourly wage: $29.80
  • Work hours per week: 73.5

20. Washington, DC

  • Monthly rent (2br): $3,009
  • Annual income: $72,935
  • Hourly wage: $35.20
  • Work hours per week: 76.4

21. Denver, CO

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,975
  • Annual income: $56,258
  • Hourly wage: $27.50
  • Work hours per week: 64.2

22. Detroit, MI

  • Monthly rent (2br): $703
  • Annual income: $26,249
  • Hourly wage: $13.90
  • Work hours per week: 45.3

Photo Credit: Michelle Lane / Alamy Stock Photo

23. Portland, OR

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,751
  • Annual income: $58,423
  • Hourly wage: $30.30
  • Work hours per week: 51.6

24. Nashville, TN

  • Monthly rent (2br): $1,619
  • Annual income: $49,891
  • Hourly wage: $24.60
  • Work hours per week: 58.8

25. Memphis, TN

  • Monthly rent (2br): $733
  • Annual income: $36,975
  • Hourly wage: $18.70
  • Work hours per week: 35.0

Methodology

Monthly rental prices for each city were sourced from Zillow. The prices shown are for 2-bedroom apartments in 2017. Median household income and mean hours worked were sourced from the latest U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Using median household income and mean hours worked, an approximation for effective hourly wage was determined. Assuming the 28% rule, which states that a household should spend a maximum of 28% of its gross income on housing expenses, the number of work hours needed per week to afford rent was determined using the monthly rent for each city combined with its effective hourly wage. Cities without rental listing data from Zillow were not included. Cities with fewer than 100,000 people were excluded as well.

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