Since American is quickly becoming a nation of renters (at least in expensive coastal enclaves like New York City) and many millennials fully anticipate that home ownership will be forever out of reach.
But even when young workers finally graduate from their unpaid internships and start earning that big-boy-job salary, they might find that rents in places like Manhattan (where the average monthly rent tops $4,000) make it too expensive to live in anything approximating a decent apartment with enough space to really feel at home.
To try and work out a comparison to show just how far the average renter in the 100 biggest US cities can stretch their money, RentCafe looked at the median monthly renter household income from the US Census Bureau and the average rent from Yardi Matrix and came up with a calculation, based on the maximum square feet that can be had while spending no more than 30% of one's income - the threshold to avoid becoming "rent burdened".
What they found is hardly surprising. New York, Boston, and Los Angeles are the three cities where renters earning the median income can reasonably afford the least amount of space, even though they are among the cities with the highest average salaries in the country. To keep your rental spend under 30%, renters would need to find an apartment that's under 300 square feet (about the size of a modest home office) when going by the average price per square foot of rental space. In San Francisco, that number rises to between 300 and 400 square feet, thanks to the high median salary (it remains one of the most expensive housing markets in the country).
On the other end of the spectrum, investors could afford the most space on the same percentage of your monthly income in Gilbert, AZ, Chandler, AZ, Plano, TX, and Henderson, NV, all offering about 1,000 or more square-feet worth of space.
Furthermore, they found that there are only 14 cities among the 100 largest where renters could afford to live within their means in a decent-sized apartment. They are:
1. Gilbert, AZ
2. Plano, TX
3. Wichita, KS
4. Tulsa, OK
5. Chandler, AZ
6. Oklahoma City, OK
7. Virginia Beach, VA
8. North Las Vegas, NV
9. Irving, TX
10. Paradise, NV
11. Arlington, VA
12. Fremont, CA
13. Henderson, NV
14. Bakersfield, CA
But if moving to these cities isn't feasible or worth the sacrifice, renters can at least compare the 'rent burden' data in the chart below: