The rent really is too damn high: Why American renters have never had it worse

You're not the only one struggling to keep up. San Franciscans are spending half of their income on rent

By April M. Short

Published August 19, 2015 9:00AM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet If you’re having trouble keeping up with rent, you’re not alone. Renting in the U.S. has never been as expensive as it is right now.

According to a new report by the online real estate database Zillow, rents have never taken up this much of the American paycheck. Mortgage prices have remained relatively stable over the last several years, while rent has skyrocketed. A Bloomberg article points out that the cost of homeownership is actually at a historic low, while the rate of homeownership is also lower than it has been in years. With home ownership is at its lowest rate in five years, apartment living has become increasingly competitive and some landlords appear to be taking advantage of the situation.

To come up with its estimates, Zillow tracked data going back to 1979. It found that while the longstanding average income percentage an American spent on rent between 1985 and 1999 was 24.4, today a median renter is spending an average of 30.2 percent of her income on the rent for a median-priced apartment. This is up from 29.5 percent one year ago.

In Los Angeles, residents are spending half of their incomes on rent. San Francisco residents are just shy of LA, spending 47 percent of their incomes on rent.

For people like me who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, this news isn’t exactly shocking. Rent in California has always been high compared with much of the country, but it’s been especially bananas in recent years. Thanks mainly to the influx of billionare-backed tech companies from Silicon Valley, San Francisco is the most expensive city in America. The artists and non-techies who once called the city home are moving en masse to Oakland and surrounding parts of the East Bay. This is creating a damaging domino effect in which primarily white, middle-class people priced out of SF are in turn pricing lower-income minority families out of their longtime East Bay homes.

Gentrification isn't just a San Francisco trend, of course, and California’s not the only place where city dwellers are spending close to half of what they earn on shelter. In Miami, rent accounts for an average of 45 percent of income, and in the New York metro area, the number is 41 percent.

Here's a pretty staggering graph Bloomberg put together to show the "Affordability Crunch," based on Zillow's data:

April M. Short

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