Cities With the Highest — and Lowest — Share of Income Going Toward Rent

Young woman sitting on a couch.
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on HireAHelper.

Homeownership is becoming less and less attainable due to rising home prices. But while the cost of homeownership is high, renters often face an even heavier financial burden. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that American renters spend a median 31% of income on housing, compared with just 16.5% for homeowners. These figures vary widely throughout cities and states across the country.

The high cost of rent impacts low-income renter households more than any other group. More than 75% of households with annual income below $50,000 per year spend 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities. Among renter households with an annual income below $20,000, almost 90% spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

To identify the most unaffordable cities for renters, researchers analyzed the latest data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). For each city, researchers calculated the median share of income allocated toward rent and utilities by dividing median gross rent by median household income for renters.

Various “majority-minority” cities — those in which minority groups comprise at least 50% of the population — dominate the list of unaffordable cities for renters. In majority-minority cities included in this analysis, an average of 34% of renter income goes toward housing costs. Extreme cases include Miami Gardens, Florida, (97% minority population) and Springfield, Massachusetts, (68% minority population), whose renters typically spend more than half of their income on housing.

Here are the cities with the highest and lowest shares of income going toward rent and utilities.

Detailed findings and methodology

Happy renters
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

Renters that spend the most on housing relative to income live in some of the nation’s most disadvantaged cities, as evident by below-average incomes. For instance, in New Orleans — where renters spend more than 44% of income on housing — renter income is 35% lower than the national median. Furthermore, poverty rates in New Orleans exceed 24%, a rate more than double the national level.

Throughout the country, a lack of affordable housing disproportionately impacts minority communities, who have chronically low rates of homeownership. These trends are particularly troubling in a time when owning a home has become more difficult due to rising home prices and increased living costs.

Interestingly, San Francisco stands out as a counterintuitive example of a city in which existing renters spend a low share of their income on housing. Despite astronomical market rents, a majority of San Francisco’s rental units are under rent control, which means that existing renters spend far below market rates. Additionally, renters in San Francisco tend to be extremely well-paid. While median gross rent for existing renters in San Francisco is about 78% higher than the national median, household income for San Francisco renters is nearly 150% higher.

Data used in this analysis is from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). Median household income is for renter households only. Gross rent includes both contract rent and utility costs; this is intended to control for differences in the inclusion/exclusion of utilities in monthly rents. Household income and gross rent statistics are from the 2019 ACS one-year estimates; whereas, minority population statistics are from the 2018 ACS five-year estimates. The minority population reported is the percentage of residents who did not identify as non-Hispanic white.

To identify the cities where renters spent the largest share of income on rent, median monthly gross rent was divided by median monthly renter household income. Locations were ordered by the resulting statistic. In the event of a tie, the location with the higher median monthly rent was ranked higher.

To improve relevance, only cities with at least 100,000 residents were included.

Large cities with the highest share of income going toward rent

10. Anaheim, California

rides Paradise Pier Anaheim California reflected lake
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 35.2%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,733
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $4,921
  • Median annual household income for renters: $59,056
  • Minority population: 75.2%

9. Philadelphia

Kilmer Media / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 35.6%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,079
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,035
  • Median annual household income for renters: $36,417
  • Minority population: 65.4%

8. Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis, Tennessee
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 35.9%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $923
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,572
  • Median annual household income for renters: $30,866
  • Minority population: 74.3%

7. Los Angeles

holbox / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 36.5%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,554
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $4,252
  • Median annual household income for renters: $51,027
  • Minority population: 71.5%

6. Boston

Boston, Massachusetts
Roman Babakin / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 37%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,735
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $4,691
  • Median annual household income for renters: $56,291
  • Minority population: 55.5%

5. Detroit

Detroit, Michigan
Susanne Pommer / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 38.1%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $866
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,271
  • Median annual household income for renters: $27,246
  • Minority population: 89.7%

4. Fresno, California

Fresno, California
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 38.1%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,058
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,779
  • Median annual household income for renters: $33,344
  • Minority population: 72.9%

3. Baltimore

Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent & utilities: 38.4%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,090
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,841
  • Median annual household income for renters: $34,094
  • Minority population: 72.5%

2. Miami

Miami beach
goodluz / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 42.4%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,298
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,061
  • Median annual household income for renters: $36,731
  • Minority population: 89.3%

1. New Orleans

Streetcar in New Orleans
TFoxFoto / Shutterstock.com

  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 44.1%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,010
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,292
  • Median annual household income for renters: $27,505
  • Minority population: 69.4%

Large cities with the lowest share of income going toward rent

10. Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City
wallace-weeks / Shutterstock.com

Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 29%

Median monthly gross rent: $979

Median monthly household income for renters: $3,374

Median annual household income for renters: $40,492

Minority population: 44.9%

9. Minneapolis

Minneapolis, Minnesota
nikitsin.smugmug.com / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 28.8%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,068
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,704
  • Median annual household income for renters: $44,444
  • Minority population: 40.2%

8. Austin, Texas

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 28.6%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,334
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $4,370
  • Median annual household income for renters: $56,037
  • Minority population: 51.7%

7. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City, OK
Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 28.4%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $874
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,081
  • Median annual household income for renters: $36,973
  • Minority population: 46.1%

6. Seattle

dibrova / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 28.3%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,744
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $6,163
  • Median annual household income for renters: $73,959
  • Minority population: 35.5%

5. Wichita, Kansas

Wichita, Kansas
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 27.9%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $833
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $2,988
  • Median annual household income for renters: $35,851
  • Minority population: 37%

4. Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha, Nebraska
EQRoy / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 27.7%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $940
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,391
  • Median annual household income for renters: $40,697
  • Minority population: 33.2%

3. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio
Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 27.3%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $984
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $3,599
  • Median annual household income for renters: $43,191
  • Minority population: 44.1%

2. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Statue of King Neptune in Virginia Beach
JoMo333 / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent & utilities: 26.9%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,363
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $5,069
  • Median annual household income for renters: $60,827
  • Minority population: 38%

1. San Francisco

San Francisco
Maridav / Shutterstock.com
  • Median share of income spent on rent and utilities: 22.3%
  • Median monthly gross rent: $1,959
  • Median monthly household income for renters: $8,777
  • Median annual household income for renters: $105,320
  • Minority population: 59.4%

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