It’s no question that affording housing – whether owning or renting – is expensive. While most Americans say they’re spending about 25% of their income on housing expenses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that’s not exactly the case in some of California’s biggest cities.
In a recent analysis, SmartAsset reviewed the nation’s 25 largest cities to determine the number of hours a renter would need to work to cover housing costs based on three metrics: average annual take-home pay, average hours worked per year, and median monthly rent.
For example, in Detroit, the estimated hourly wage is $20.80 after taxes while the median rent is $850. This means a renter needs to work just over 40 hours to cover their rent each month. Detroit is the only city SmartAsset reviewed where a renter needs to work just one full-time week to cover rent.
The analysis also referred to a common financial rule of thumb – you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your pre-tax income on housing. In Detroit, SmartAsset’s analysis found renters are following that financial guideline and spending about 25% of their pre-tax income on housing.
In four California cities, that isn’t the case.
Renters in San Jose have to work more hours than any of the other cities reviewed just to pay rent, according to the analysis. With an estimated hourly wage of $28.84 and a median monthly rent of $2,232, those living in San Jose need to work slightly more than 77 hours – almost two weeks of full-time work – to cover rent.
Coming in second place in SmartAsset’s analysis was Los Angeles. While both the average rent and estimated wages are lower – $1,523 and $21.08, respectively – you’d still need to work 72.3 hours to pay for rent each month.
Close behind was San Diego where working 72.2 hours with a wage of $24.53 is needed to afford an average rent of $1,770.
Rounding out the top four cities is San Francisco. The estimated hourly wage is higher than the three other California cities at $31.74 (and the highest among the cities evaluated), but with the median rent just surpassing $2,000, you’d need to work 63.3 hours to afford rent.
Unsurprisingly, renters in San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco aren’t exactly following the financial rule of spending no more than 30% of their income on housing. Based on SmartAsset’s data, here is roughly how much of an average renter’s income is going to housing:
- San Jose: 48%
- Los Angeles: 45%
- San Diego: 45%
- San Francisco: 40%
These rankings may not come as a shock to California renters. Los Angeles and San Diego were recently found to be among the most expensive rental cities in the U.S.
It’s not just renting that’s expensive in California, either. San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco also have the highest median home list prices, recent data from Zillow found.
Boston was the only non-California city to land in the top five cities nationwide. With an hourly wage of $24.75 and a median rent of $1,685, a renter needs to work 68.1 hours to afford housing each month.