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How Big or Tiny of an Apartment Can the Median Household Income Afford to Rent in the 100 Largest US Cities?

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Published : April 11th, 2019
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Category : Editorials

In some cities, you get what is considered a walk-in closet of a McMansion.

It’s not totally fair to compare rents in Tulsa with rents in San Francisco because household incomes are different as well. One way to look at this is to figure out how big of an apartment a household can rent by paying 30% of the local median household income in rent. And you guessed it, in a number of cities the local median household income, as high as it may be, can only rent what would be considered a walk-in closet in a McMansion.

Many households in expensive cities such as New York City or San Francisco pay far more in rent than the 30% of their pre-tax household income. 50% is not unheard of. The median asking rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco currently runs $4,600 a month.

A household signing the lease today would have to make $184,000 a year before taxes to spend 30% of their income on rent. If that household makes “only” $110,000 in income, rent would eat up 50% of pre-tax household income.

So here is a look at the 100 most populous US cities (with New York City broken up into its boroughs), and what size apartment a household earning the median household income can afford by paying 30% of their pre-tax income in rent.

The analysis was done by RENTCafe, using average rent data from Yardi Matrix and median household income data from the Census Bureau’s 2017 ACS, adjusted for inflation to reflect 2019 values. Household income includes all forms of pretax income from wages, interest, dividends, Social Security, etc., earned by all members over the age of 15, but does not include capital gains. Median household income means that 50% earn more, and 50% earn less.

Average apartment size varies by city.

Before we get to what apartment size they can afford, there is the issue of average size, which varies sharply by city. The table below shows the 10 cities with the smallest average apartments. They include the usual suspects with the highest rents: Honolulu with the most minuscule average apartment size of 561 square feet, but also three boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens), Seattle, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Chicago … and the unusual suspect, Paradise, NV.

City/Borough

State

Avg size

Avg. rent

1

Honolulu

 HI

561

$1,603

2

Brooklyn

 NY

697

$2,796

3

Seattle

 WA

698

$2,045

4

Newark

 NJ

704

$1,176

5

Manhattan

NY

723

$4,113

6

Queens

 NY

731

$2,195

7

Washington

 DC

745

$2,133

8

Chicago

 IL

747

$1,898

9

San Francisco

 CA

748

$3,607

10

Paradise

 NV

753

$863

At the other end of the spectrum are the cities with the largest average apartment sizes, all of them close to 1,000 square feet, and the sport reasonable average rents:

City/Borough

State

Avg size

Avg. rent

1

Henderson

 NV

991

$1,261

2

Chesapeake

 VA

979

$1,207

3

Atlanta

 GA

978

$1,425

4

Virginia Beach

 VA

972

$1,176

5

Jacksonville

 FL

966

$1,063

6

Gilbert

 AZ

962

$1,240

7

Raleigh

 NC

960

$1,164

8

Orlando

 FL

958

$1,402

9

North Las Vegas

 NV

958

$1,050

10

Scottsdale

 AZ

948

$1,471

So what size apartment can that household afford?

To answer that question, RENTCafe looked at how many square feet you can rent with 30% of the median income of renter-occupied households, given the average rent per square foot in that city.

In only 14 of the 100 cities can 30% of this median household income rent an apartment that is larger than average for that city. At the top is Gilbert, AZ, where this household can afford the largest apartment (1,174 square feet). Some of the cities are on the list because household incomes are very high, and others are on this list because rents are low and apartments are on average larger:

City/Borough

State

Afford size

Avg size

Avg. rent

1

Gilbert

 AZ

1,174

962

$1,240

2

Plano

 TX

1,137

935

$1,278

3

Wichita

 KS

965

792

$643

4

Tulsa

 OK

960

820

$685

5

Chandler

 AZ

1,069

940

$1,287

6

Oklahoma City

 OK

973

849

$754

7

Virginia Beach

 VA

1,077

972

$1,176

8

North Las Vegas

 NV

1,033

958

$1,050

9

Irving

 TX

912

852

$1,146

10

Paradise

 NV

790

753

$863

11

Arlington

 VA

902

866

$2,149

12

Fremont

 CA

843

831

$2,406

13

Henderson

 NV

995

991

$1,261

14

Bakersfield

 CA

862

861

$992

And finally, here are all 100 cities in order of how big or tiny of an apartment, in square feet, these folks can rent with 30% of the median household income. For example, in Brooklyn’s case, these folks can afford to rent a bare room of 15 by 18 square feet, which is not exactly huge. You can search the list with the search function in your browser. If your smartphone clips the table on the right, hold your device in landscape position:

City/Borough

State

Afford size

Avg size

Avg. rent

1

Brooklyn

 NY

265

697

$2,796

2

Boston

 MA

266

813

$3,325

3

Manhattan

NY

290

723

$4,113

4

Los Angeles

 CA

333

792

$2,463

5

Oakland

 CA

340

794

$2,684

6

Philadelphia

 PA

368

798

$1,592

7

Chicago

 IL

370

747

$1,898

8

Cleveland

 OH

372

805

$1,076

9

Jersey City

 NJ

372

832

$2,925

10

Detroit

 MI

376

803

$1,055

11

Hialeah

 FL

376

830

$1,363

12

Miami

 FL

388

892

$1,692

13

San Francisco

 CA

407

748

$3,607

14

Queens

 NY

419

731

$2,195

15

Newark

 NJ

437

704

$1,176

16

Long Beach

 CA

443

797

$2,006

17

Buffalo

 NY

448

781

$1,061

18

Honolulu

 HI

463

561

$1,603

19

Washington

 DC

465

745

$2,133

20

Minneapolis

 MN

465

790

$1,551

21

Seattle

 WA

479

698

$2,045

22

New Orleans

 LA

515

897

$1,133

23

Santa Ana

 CA

516

862

$1,922

24

Milwaukee

 WI

519

854

$1,158

25

Pittsburgh

 PA

521

816

$1,210

26

Portland

 OR

534

769

$1,480

27

Baltimore

 MD

541

823

$1,253

28

St. Paul

 MN

544

829

$1,260

29

San Jose

 CA

551

885

$2,706

30

San Diego

 CA

552

876

$2,154

31

Cincinnati

 OH

563

871

$972

32

Chula Vista

 CA

565

866

$1,729

33

Denver

 CO

572

840

$1,618

34

Stockton

 CA

573

790

$1,144

35

Anaheim

 CA

585

845

$1,786

36

Riverside

 CA

589

844

$1,538

37

Sacramento

 CA

600

823

$1,370

38

Baton Rouge

 LA

611

942

$1,040

39

Tampa

 FL

619

925

$1,298

40

Richmond

 VA

620

867

$1,081

41

Tucson

 AZ

621

757

$856

42

Atlanta

 GA

621

978

$1,425

43

St. Louis

 MO

632

840

$923

44

Nashville

 TN

639

889

$1,335

45

Fresno

 CA

640

895

$1,059

46

St. Petersburg

 FL

642

873

$1,282

47

Reno

 NV

652

853

$1,237

48

Madison

 WI

654

845

$1,233

49

Orlando

 FL

656

958

$1,402

50

Aurora

 CO

668

841

$1,325

51

Toledo

 OH

678

812

$713

52

Dallas

 TX

679

844

$1,199

53

Glendale

 AZ

695

793

$953

54

Albuquerque

 NM

717

812

$869

55

Irvine

 CA

717

917

$2,380

56

Norfolk

 VA

719

881

$1,071

57

Phoenix

 AZ

727

799

$1,037

58

Colorado Springs

 CO

741

837

$1,122

59

Winston-Salem

 NC

750

918

$841

60

Mesa

 AZ

751

810

$1,009

61

Austin

 TX

751

864

$1,369

62

San Antonio

 TX

756

853

$1,018

63

Houston

 TX

757

879

$1,094

64

Louisville

 KY

766

932

$941

65

Arlington

 TX

771

824

$1,012

66

Durham

 NC

777

937

$1,132

67

Fort Worth

 TX

788

871

$1,088

68

Lubbock

 TX

788

914

$927

69

Paradise

 NV

790

753

$863

70

Lincoln

 NE

796

943

$959

71

Indianapolis

 IN

797

879

$858

72

Kansas City

 MO

798

899

$979

73

El Paso

 TX

800

814

$770

74

Memphis

 TN

806

910

$788

75

Garland

 TX

807

870

$1,036

76

Lexington

 KY

810

901

$898

77

Las Vegas

 NV

820

894

$1,051

78

Charlotte

 NC

825

944

$1,190

79

Jacksonville

 FL

838

966

$1,063

80

Fremont

 CA

843

831

$2,406

81

Corpus Christi

 TX

845

849

$965

82

Greensboro

 NC

858

937

$876

83

Bakersfield

 CA

862

861

$992

84

Fort Wayne

 IN

866

882

$760

85

Columbus

 OH

878

885

$918

86

Raleigh

 NC

893

960

$1,164

87

Arlington

 VA

902

866

$2,149

88

Omaha

 NE

905

924

$905

89

Irving

 TX

912

852

$1,146

90

Chesapeake

 VA

914

979

$1,207

91

Scottsdale

 AZ

924

948

$1,471

92

Tulsa

 OK

960

820

$685

93

Wichita

 KS

965

792

$643

94

Oklahoma City

 OK

973

849

$754

95

Henderson

 NV

995

991

$1,261

96

North Las Vegas

 NV

1,033

958

$1,050

97

Chandler

 AZ

1,069

940

$1,287

98

Virginia Beach

 VA

1,077

972

$1,176

99

Plano

 TX

1,137

935

$1,278

100

Gilbert

 AZ

1,174

962

$1,240

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