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DC Area Renter Demographics Through the Decades

by UrbanTurf Staff

DC Area Renter Demographics Through the Decades: Figure 1
Median rent growth over the years.

A recent ApartmentList report illustrates how renting has evolved nationwide through the decades. Today, UrbanTurf takes a look at that evolution from the perspective of the DC area.

As prevalent as the conversation around renting has been in recent years, the DC area has a smaller proportion of renter households than it has had in the past. Around the 1930s and 1940s, upwards of 60 percent of DC-area residents were renters. That number has now dropped below 40 percent. 

The numbers in the report are a bit skewed to some extent because of how the metropolitan area’s boundaries have broadened over time. Up to 1960, this region was identified as including the District; Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland; and Alexandria, Falls Church, Arlington and Fairfax in Virginia. Since that time, 1-2 additional jurisdictions were added each decade until 2000, when the list began to expand to eventually include places as far away as Jefferson County, West Virginia.

DC Area Renter Demographics Through the Decades: Figure 2
DC renter demographics over time.

In 1940, renters in the DC area paid a monthly median rent of $699, in 2017 dollars. The median rent rose to $895 in 1980 and $1,435 in 2016. While the changing boundaries of the metro area likely have something to do with why median rents appeared to drop sharply in 2000, from $1,194 in 1990 to $1,080 in 2000, overall, rent growth in the region largely outpaced that seen nationwide.

The report also highlights the increasing proportion of income that DC-area residents spend on rent. In 1960, the earliest year income data was available, DC-area renters spent 17.6 percent of their income on rent. By 2016, this ratio had increased by nearly 9 percent to 26.5 percent — a smaller increase than what renters nationwide experienced over the same timespan, but still notable. 

The study uses data from the Census and the American Community Survey. All monetary amounts have been adjusted to 2017 dollars.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc_area_renter_demographics_through_the_decades1/13420

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