Americans making an average wage need to work about 63 hours before earning enough to pay the typical monthly rent of $2,040, according to a new analysis from Zillow. This is three hours more than a year ago and six hours more than in October 2019.
These numbers reflect the growing affordability challenges for renters. Zillow data shows the average hourly wage has increased 23% over the past five years; however, rents are up 36.9% over that same period.
“The rental market has cooled this year, but so far that has meant prices growing more slowly, not any real relief for renters,” said Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker. “Rents were growing at a record pace for much of 2021, squeezing budgets for renters moving or renewing leases. Now, it appears more people are opting to double up with roommates or family, which means more vacancies and pressure on landlords to price their units competitively, offering some hope of relief on the horizon. Rents fell last month for the first time in two years, possibly the start of more price drops to come, or at least a signal that we are back to the usual seasonal rhythms of the rental market.”
The Zillow Observed Rental Index found that rents fell 0.1% month over month in October to $2,040, ending a two-year streak of nonstop growth.
Hot Sun Belt markets, which saw strong migration trends during the pandemic, are seeing large jumps in the work hours needed to pay rent. Miami tops the list, with renters needing to work 96 hours at the average wage to pay the typical rent. This is 24 hours more than what was needed in the metro five years ago.
In Tampa, Florida, renters would need to work an additional 20 hours to pay rent compared with five years. And in Phoenix, where rents are up 66.7% since 2017, renters would need to work an additional 17 hours.
However, even with the recent rent hikes in the hot Sun Belt markets, the hours of work needed to afford rent remind below the national average of 63, with Atlanta and Phoenix coming in at 61 hours; Nashville, Tennessee, at 60 hours; and Austin, Texas, at 58 hours.
Rents have gotten easier to pay in only three large metros, according to Zillow; however, they are among the most expensive in the nation: California’s San Jose and San Francisco as well as Boston. Even after the slight drop since 2017, the average person would need to work more hours than the national average to afford rent.