Rents across the country have gone through a period of historical growth in the past two years. According to real estate research firm CoStar Group, rents in the U.S. rose 11.3% last year. In contrast, over the previous five years, gross rents increased by 18.1%.
Rising rent prices are the result of soaring inflation and a squeeze on inventory. This lack of supply relative to demand comes as the number of people seeking to rent has increased substantially during the pandemic, while the number of available properties has been limited by shortages of building materials and other delays in construction resulting from the pandemic. This is the industry laying off the most Americans.
To determine the counties with the highest rent, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of median gross rent from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. The median gross rent across the United States is $1,096, and in these 50 counties, rents range from $1,582 to as high as $2,435.
Of the 50 counties with the most expensive rent, California has by far the most, with 16, followed by Virginia with eight and three states with five each — Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York. These are the states with the highest rent. As a state, Virginia only ranks 9th highest for median gross rents, and some of Virginia’s counties have very low rents. However, the counties that make the list are all Washington D.C. suburbs and are some of the most affluent counties in America. These are the richest cities in America.
In many of the counties where rent costs are higher, a higher share of housing units are occupied by renters, rather than homeowners. This is largely because these places have more expensive housing markets as a whole, meaning residents are priced out of the possibility of owning a home and are forced to rent. Nationwide, the median home value is $229,800. In 49 of the 50 counties on this list, the typical home is more expensive than the national median, and in most cases, far more expensive. Six counties on this list have a median home value in excess of $1 million. Four of these are in California, the fifth is the Island of Nantucket, and the sixth is New York County, better known as Manhattan.
While rents in these markets are much higher than the national figure, renting property is actually in some places relatively affordable after accounting for the typical resident’s income. In about half the counties on this list, median gross rent accounts for less than 29.6% of the local median household income – the national figure. In San Francisco County, which has the fifth highest median gross rent of any county in the country, that figure amounts to just 24% of the county’s typical household income.
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