The amount of space you can afford to rent on a normal person's income can vary depending on where you live, even within a particular state. In New York, you'll likely get more bang for your buck in a city like Buffalo, while you might feel cramped squeezing into under 300 square feet in Brooklyn.
To determine how much space you can afford across the country, real-estate website RENTCafé compared the median monthly household income for renters to the average rent in the 100 most populous U.S. cities, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Yardi Matrix.
The researchers adjusted each city's median income for inflation to reflect 2019 values, then determined how many square feet you could afford in each place if you don't spend more than the expert-advised 30% of your income on rent. Of the 100 it considered, "only 14 cities offer a comfortable life while living within your means," it concludes.
Here's what you could afford on a median income in the four cities it looked at in New York state, along with each city's average apartment size and rent price. Cities are ranked from the largest amount of space you could afford to rent to the smallest.
How much space you can afford on a median income: 448 square feet
Median monthly renter income: $2,030
Average apartment size: 781 square feet
Average rent price: $1,061
How much space you can afford on a median income: 419 square feet
Median monthly renter income: $4,191
Average apartment size: 731 square feet
Average rent price: $2,195
How much space you can afford on a median income: 290 square feet
Median monthly renter income: $5,492
Average apartment size: 723 square feet
Average rent price: $4,113
How much space you can afford on a median income: 265 square feet
Median monthly renter income: $3,542
Average apartment size: 697 square feet
Average rent price: $2,796
The data highlights that location matters: The more populated the city, generally, the less space you can afford without becoming rent-burdened. Expensive and crowded cities like Brooklyn, for example, "are places where many dream of … having a better job, a bigger income, and thus, more accessibility to the downtown lifestyle," says RENTCafé.
However, "these cities offer the least amount of space one can afford to rent on a median income, even though they are among the cities with the highest average monthly incomes in the country."
On the other hand, you could afford nearly 200 square feet more in a city like Buffalo, which has a population of about 258,000. The average rent there is about $1,000, compared to nearly $3,000 in Brooklyn.
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