How much income paid for rent?

Intrigued by an MSNBC’s article titled Americans becoming increasingly house poor, Golbguru recently write an post inquiring people’s expense on housing. The MSNBC article only revealed that an average homeowner spends nearly 21% of their household income on housing, up from under 19% in 1999. Percentage-wise, Californian spend the most, 25.4% in 2005. The data includes many homeowners who bought their houses before the boom, thus, the 2 to 3% increase does not seem very dramatic. For more recent buyers, I do not know any friends who spend less than 25% (one couple bought earlier with 200K annual income) of their income on housing, most between 30 to 40%!

However, I did not find any percentage for renters. My further research found that the ratio really depends on the locality. In Golbguru’s case, he was able to pay only 11% of his gross household income (mainly two graduate students’ stipends) on rent, likely around $500 in a University subsidized apartment. Yes, an excellent job of Golbguru!

New York City is likely the other extreme, high rent and low vacancy. People not only need to get in line to rent an apartment, but also need to hire a professional broker for apartment hunt. According to New York City’s Economic Snapshot July 2006, the average monthly contractor and increased by 25% after adjusting for inflation, from $767 in 1991 to $956 in 2005. From the following picture, we can see average rent as % of average renter’s household income has also swelled from 34.4% in 1991 to 36.7% in 2005. It seems that not only the housing price soared, the rent was raised significantly too! I hope no one pay so much to stay in NYC. Of course, if you’re earning more than average renter’s household income and live under your means, you can beat those ratios.

I attended graduate school on the west coast, where rents are high. University housings are both cheaper and more convenient compared to local rental market. I was earning 23K annual stipend, but paid about 28% of my gross income for one room in a 2-bedroom university dorm. Despite the small annual raise of 1-3% of my stipends, when I finally graduated, I was paying 39% of my gross for the same room. A very good strategy to move out PhD students faster!

Right now, with 2 full-time job income, Jacqui and I are paying about 7% gross including cell phones and utilities, not much better than Golbguru, but way better than people in NYC and myself before. However, weโ€™re looking for a reasonable upgrade in the next few months to have more space.


5 Responses to “How much income paid for rent?”

  1. golbguru Says:

    7% including cell phones is much better than what I am paying. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t include phones in my calculations, just the utilities (water + electricity + garbage etc.)

    I am glad we are not near 39% mark – as it is there is enough pressure – high rents would have just compounded the stress. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    Btw, how did you figure out I was in Texas? I don’t think I mentioned it anywhere…or did I?

  2. Jacqui Says:


    Are you really in Texas? It is just my guessing. You mentioned your trip to Philadelphia — ticket price and fly hours.

    For 3.5 hours, I guessed that you couldn’t be very east or west. It should be somewhere in the middle west or middle south.

    Then I searched for ticket price for flights to Philly. I couldn’t find a ticket that beats the price you got, but closest ones were from Texas. And I have very limited knowledge about American geography. Texas is one of the few states that I have been. So I just told Yannick that you might be from Texas.

    Are you? Sorry if I am wrong. I was just curious about the school you were in, no other intention.

  3. Jacqui Says:


    I think that you are from mid-west, somewhere close to Chicago?

    Sorry for my silliness. I am just too curious yet too ignorant of geography ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Golbguru Says:

    I admire your analytical capabilities. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am not close to Chicago – your first guess was very close to the target. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Jacqui Says:

    Really? Yannick found some blog directory where you registered as from Chicago, that’s why he thought that you might be from Chicago. Good, you helped me win a dinner. Yannick is going to cook for me tonight.

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