12 least affordable states for renters

12 least affordable states for renters

Foothold Technology looked at the affordability of rent in each state, based on an analysis conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

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Choropleth map that shows how many jobs are required at the average renter

Foothold Technology

Full-time workers are feeling the pinch in today's rental market. A nationwide housing shortage and skyrocketing property values—coupled with fewer pay raises for the general working population in recent decades—are fueling a squeeze in the rental market. But how affordable is rent in your state?

In order to assess affordability, Foothold Technology looked at rent and wage trends in each state and Washington D.C. based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Market Rent and the average renter's wage in each state, as shown in a 2022 analysis from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The 12 least affordable states on this list are ranked based on the number of jobs needed at an average renter's wage to afford a modest two-bedroom unit.

HUD's Fair Market Rent metric is usually set at the 40th percentile of rent for typical units—meaning slightly below the average rent in a given metro area. It excludes low-quality, already subsidized, and recently built units. And in the case of the NLIHC analysis, "affordable" is used to describe monthly rental rates that equate to 30% or less of a renter's income.

Today, a renter in the U.S. needs to make $25.82 an hour, up from $24.90 last year, in order to afford rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to the NLIHC. If the renter needs just one bedroom of space, they will need to earn $21.25 per hour on average.

Rent affordability by state

Choropleth map that shows how many jobs are required at the average renter

Foothold Technology

In 49 states, along with Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, the average renter working full time doesn't earn enough to afford HUD's definition of a moderately priced rental apartment. North Dakota, which has enjoyed an oil and gas related boom for the last several years, is the only state that breaks this mold, according to the 2021 NLIHC report. In almost every state in the U.S., median household incomes haven't kept up with the rate at which the median rent has risen, from the turn of the century through 2018. That's according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities cited by the NLIHC.

A total of 20 states still lack a state-level minimum wage law exceeding the federal level, allowing businesses to legally pay as little as $7.25 per hour for labor, which is the federal minimum wage. A person earning the federal minimum wage would need to work more than two full-time jobs each week to afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. The federal minimum wage does not increase with inflation, and the last time it was raised was over 13 years ago. But it's far from just the lowest-paid Americans who find the cost of living too high.

The average renter makes an hourly wage of $21.99, according to the 2022 NLIHC analysis of BLS data. About 5.8% of adults in the U.S. were considered housing insecure in May 2022, the most recent month for which the U.S. Census Bureau has published data on the portion of Americans behind on their rent or mortgage payments and who have little to no confidence they can pay next month's bill. Housing insecurity was highest in New York, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, rent prices are being driven to record levels across the country. Contributing to the increases are a shortage of available housing, including both single-family homes and multifamily apartment complexes. Landlords have also cited the increasing costs of maintaining properties as a reason for rising rents. Since early 2021, the median rent in the U.S. has ballooned from around $1,500 to $1,879 in July 2022, according to Realtor.com data. It was the 17th month straight for which median rents set a record.

#12. New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New hampshire as seen from the water

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,015
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Boston-Cambridge-Quincy HMFA
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Coos County

New Hampshire is the 12th least affordable state for renters. It shares the Boston-Cambridge metro area with another state that landed on the ranking—Massachusetts. By comparison, New Hampshire is more affordable for renters looking for a two-bedroom apartment than Massachusetts. Renters in New Hampshire earn an average wage of $20 per hour, meaning a moderately priced two-bedroom rental is just out of reach—unless renters take on an additional part-time job or more working hours.

#11. Florida

An aerial view on Miami

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,069
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Monroe County
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Levy County

Florida, which has seen an influx of immigration from other states in recent years, is the 11th least affordable state for renters in 2022. The average renter earns a wage of $21 per hour, and has to juggle an additional job to afford a moderately priced two-bedroom rental.

#10. Oregon

Skyline of Portland, Oregon

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,072
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Baker County

Renters living in Oregon's priciest metro area (Portland) need to pull in at least six figures annually to afford the average two-bedroom rent. That's according to an Apartment List analysis of rent data that uses the 30% of income rule for housing expenses. Oregon is the 10th least affordable state for renters, and the average renter there earns $21 per hour, or just over $40,000 annually.

#9. Connecticut

Stamford, Connecticut as seen from the water

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,108
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Stamford-Norwalk
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Windham County

Connecticut ranks the ninth least affordable state for renters. A renter who earns the average wage of $21 an hour would need to take on at least an additional part-time job at a similar rate to afford a moderately priced two-bedroom rental.

#8. Maryland

Row houses and high-rises in Baltimore

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,119
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Washington-Arlington-Alexandria
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Cumberland and Allegany County

The average renter earns $22 an hour in Maryland, meaning they have to work more than 40 hours a week to keep costs on a moderately priced two-bedroom rental under 30% of their income. Maryland is the eighth least affordable state for renters, though the lowest-priced rentals can be found in Cumberland and Allegany Counties.

#7. New Jersey

Row of colorful old brownstone buildings in Hoboken, New Jersey

James Andrews1 // Shutterstock

- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,211
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Jersey City
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Burlington County, and Camden County

The least expensive rents in New Jersey—the seventh least affordable state for renters—are found in suburban Philadelphia, where the average rent on a two bedroom apartment is $2,295, according to Apartment List.

#6. California

Modern apartment buildings in Santa Monica

divanov // Shutterstock

- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.3
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,580
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): San Francisco
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Bakersfield

California ranks #6 in terms of states that are most difficult for renters to afford housing. The average renter earns $30 an hour, the highest of any other state in the top 12 least affordable for renters. Still, a shortage of housing stock and the popularity of the Golden State has meant higher rents for the last several decades. A worker has to juggle more than one job in California to afford a moderately priced two-bedroom rental.

#5. Maine

City of Portland as seen from a marina

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.4
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $815
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Portland
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Piscataquis County

In Maine, a renter needs to work at least a part-time job on top of their regular 40-hour workweek in order to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment. The average renter earns $16 per hour, meaning that if they kept their housing expenses each month to 30% of income, they could afford to spend $815 per month on a rental. The average two-bedroom rent in the priciest metro of Portland, Maine is nearly twice that at $1,622, according to data from Apartment List.

#4. Vermont

Downtown Burlington, Vermont

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.4
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $856
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Burlington-South Burlington
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Essex County

Vermont is the fourth-least affordable state to rent in, but it's particularly pricey if you're renting in the Burlington metro area. Essex County, located in the northeastern part of the state near the Canadian border with Quebec, offers the lowest rents in the Green Mountain State. The average renter earns $16 an hour, meaning they need to work more than just full time to keep their housing costs at or below 30% of their income.

#3. Rhode Island

The skyline of Providence, Rhode Island

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.4
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $889
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Newport-Middleton-Portsmouth
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Providence-Fall River

The smallest state by land mass, Rhode Island, is the third-least affordable state to rent in the U.S. With a $17 an hour average wage, renters have to juggle multiple jobs in order to afford a moderate quality two-bedroom apartment. The Providence-Fall River metro area offers some of the best rental prices in the state.

#2. Massachusetts

Back Bay brownstone homes in Boston

Johnny Habell // Shutterstock

- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 1.4
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,431
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Boston-Cambridge-Quincy
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Western Worcester County

Massachusetts is the second-least affordable state to rent. The average renter earns $28 an hour, but needs to work at least a part-time job on the side in order to comfortably afford a moderately priced two-bedroom apartment. In Boston, the toughest metro area to afford rent, a shortage of housing and surge of outside investment in previously affordable areas are turning up the heat for renters.

#1. Hawaii

Oceanfront residences in Honolulu

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- Jobs at average renter's wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom: 2
- Monthly rent affordable at average renter's wage: $1,071
- Most expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Urban Honolulu
- Least expensive area in the state (per housing wage): Hawaii County

The Aloha State ranks the single least affordable state when taking into account the average wages earned by renters. The average renter in Hawaii needs to work two jobs to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment at the estimated average wage of $21 per hour.

The island life continues to draw newcomers from the mainland, but Hawaii's relative isolation in the Pacific Ocean also means higher price tags on everything from food to housing. Honolulu, a thriving tourist market, is the state's most expensive metro area. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Honolulu is more than $2,700 per month, according to Apartment List.

This story originally appeared on Foothold Technology and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.





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