Do Rents in DC Match Up With Salaries?

by Shilpi Paul

Cities with relatively healthy job markets like DC have garnered reputations in recent years as great places to live. Still, high rents (and low vacancy) mean that the cost of living in these prosperous regions can be quite high.

Margery Turner at the Urban Institute was curious about which U.S. cities strike the best salary-to-rent balance, and went about analyzing average salaries (for high and low-paying professions) in various cities and how they correlate with the rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment.

Urban Institute analysis

Along with San Francisco, New York and Miami, DC ranked as one of the toughest places for moderate earners to comfortably rent a two-bedroom apartment, with Turner concluding that low wage workers in the region earned nowhere near enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

From the Urban Institute’s Metro Trends blog:

If you live in the DC metro, you need to earn about $60,000 to afford the rent for a typical (modest) two-bedroom apartment. Average earnings just barely exceed that threshold. If you’re a computer professional, you probably earn much more (over $90,000 on average), but if you’re a personal service worker, you may only earn half of what you need to afford that apartment.

While Turner’s assessment analyzed the whole region, UrbanTurf would tweak the salary numbers needed to comfortably afford a two-bedroom in the city to more in the $70,000 to $120,000/year range, given that the average two-bedroom rent probably averages $2,000-$3,000/month, and a common requirement among landlords is that your annual salary must be 40 times your monthly rent (although that standard is frequently not adhered to in urban areas.) In our opinion, someone earning $60,000 would more likely be in the studio or one-bedroom price range for DC proper.

If you are on the hunt for low rents, Oklahoma could be a good option.The report found that Oklahoma City had the best salary-to-rent ratio, where the average earner can very comfortably afford a two-bedroom, and low-wage earners can almost make it, too.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/do_rents_in_dc_match_up_with_salaries/4747


  1. FCResident said at 4:32 am on Tuesday December 13, 2011:

    It would be interesting to see how student loan debt would play into Turner’s calculations. Anecdotally, I find my friends and I have roughly between 50 to 100k each of student loan debt for our graduate degrees (aka “the new bachelors degree”) for places like DC and SF. I would posit that Turner’s scales weighted with average student loan payments for each region would push up neccesary income levels to rent a 2-br in DC, akin to what UT already stated - 80 to 100k easily.

  1. Paul said at 6:19 pm on Wednesday December 14, 2011:

    Why should a person just out of college expect to rent a 2BR apartment for themselves in a desirable area? If they want to live in the best areas they should share that 2BR with a roommate or move into a group house until they’ve proven there worth in the marketplace and earned a few raises. This was the case with all my friends who aren’t lawyers.

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