Study: Renters need to work longer hours to afford rent

Nov 22, 2022, 12:32 PM
An American worker making the average wage needs to work 63 hours to earn enough to pay the median U.S. rent, which is $2,040, according to the Zillow study. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that Seattle rent is high, but a study from Zillow reports people have to work more to afford the average rent in metropolitan areas across the country.

An American worker making the average wage needs to work 63 hours to earn enough to pay the median U.S. rent, which is $2,040, according to the Zillow study. This is three more hours than last year’s average and six more hours than before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As hourly earnings have grown over 23%, the price of rent has likewise increased by 36.9% over the same period.

The average Seattle rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,964, according to Zumper. Median rent in Seattle, when you take out the extreme luxury rental prices, is closer to $1,651 a month.

So what’s the average wage that Zillow used? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage in America is $32.58, or an average salary of $65,160. Comparatively, the median income in the U.S. is $41,535, and in Seattle, for women living alone, the median income was $54,500. For men living alone, it was $59,400.

While Seattle renters only need to work an average of 56 hours, seven less than the national average, with high rents and a growing population, the average Emerald City renter still needs to work seven more hours to afford housing than they did five years ago, the study says.

Seattlites making minimum wage would have to work 88 hours before they reach the median monthly rent price. Those living on a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in the rest of the country need to work a whopping 281 hours to reach the U.S. median rent. That would be seven 40-hour weeks a month.

“The rental market has cooled this year, but so far, that has meant prices are growing more slowly, not any real relief for renters,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. “Rents were growing at a record pace for much of 2021, squeezing budgets for renters moving or renewing leases.”

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Study: Renters need to work longer hours to afford rent