Special Report

The City Where Most People Cannot Afford to Rent a Place to Live

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There are several rules of thumb about how much people should pay to rent a house or apartment. Though renters may want to factor in insurance and utilities, the basic number often mentioned is 30% of gross monthly income. In an increasing number of cities, however, that’s unlikely to be enough. San Francisco, in fact, takes the prize as the city where people cannot afford to rent a place to live. (Things aren’t necessarily better overseas. These are the most expensive countries to rent an apartment.)

To determine which major US cities had the least affordable rents, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the UK-based insurance company Admiral’s Rental Requirements report. The insurer compared estimated monthly rental prices and budgets for single residents of 72 large U.S. cities, drawing data from “popular online room rental sites in the US,” according to Admiral. (These are the places where one-bedroom rents dropped the most during the pandemic.)

The city where this ratio was highest (meaning where rents are least affordable) was San Francisco, where 94.8% of rentals were above the average budget. (Buyers are no better off, as the city has one of the highest average home prices in America at $1,560,000, a figure that rose 6% between 2019 and 2020.)  

Click here to see cities where people cannot afford to rent a place to live

Places with the highest percentage of rentals above average budgets are not clustered in one place. Philadelphia; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Wichita, Kansas are all in the top ten. (On the other hand, these cities have the lowest rents in America.)

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72. Durham, NC
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 32%

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71. Cleveland, OH
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 35.2%

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70. Scottsdale, AZ
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 35.4%

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69. Oklahoma City, OK
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 41.4%

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68. Cincinnati, OH
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 42%

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67. Seattle, WA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 44.4%

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66. Fort Worth, TX
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 46.6%

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65. Arlington, VA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 47.2%

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64. El Paso, TX
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 48.1%

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63. St. Louis, MO
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 48.4%

Top 10 cities where people cannot afford to rent a place to live

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10. Philadelphia, PA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 70.5%

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9. Saint Paul, MN
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 71.3%

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8. New York City, NY
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 71.8%

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7. Boston, MA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 74%

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6. San Jose, CA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 75.5%

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5. La Mesa, CA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 75.8%

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4. Wichita, KS
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 76.5%

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3. Chula Vista, CA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 80.4%

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2. Baton Rouge, LA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 84.4%

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1. San Francisco, CA
> % of rentals above avg. budget: 93.2%

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