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Are city rents climbing out of reach for working and middle-class families?
Residents need to make $33 an hour, or over $68,000 a year, to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County. - photo by Lane Anderson
New York isn't the only place where rent is sky high.

A new report from New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy found that rental housing markets in the 11 most populous metro areas have climbed steeply in the last several years.

"This nicely sums up the uphill battle facing policymakers trying to address poverty and low income in central cities," said Angela Rachidi, a poverty research fellow at American Enterprise Institute.

Rent and utilities are usually considered affordable when they consume no more than 30 percent of a household's income. But the report found that in 2012, more than three-fifths of low-income renters were "severely burdened" in all 11 cities, meaning they paid 50 percent of income on rent.

This leaves them with less cash for necessities like food, transportation and medicine. All of the renters became more likely to be rent-burdened between 2006 and 2013.

Take Los Angeles, for example.

A person needs to earn at least $33 an hour, or $68,640 a year, to afford the average apartment in Los Angeles County, according to Matt Schwartz, president and chief executive of the California Housing Partnership. The average apartment in L.A. costs $1,716 a month, according to USC's 2014 Casden Multifamily Forecast.

Southern California radio KPCC broke down who could afford to rent in Los Angeles, using local income figures from To earn $68,000 a year in L.A., a person needs to have a job like a software engineer ($82,669 a year), or lawyer ($104,249 a year). Even a marketing manager might fall short, at $66,538.

Meanwhile, preschool teachers, EMTs, and others whose salaries hover below $40,000 a year are left in the lurch. The average median income in Los Angeles is about $49,497, according to the most recent census.

Other cities showed similar problems. In the Furman report, the median rent grew substantially faster than renter income in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In Boston, Chicago and Houston, renter income growth outpaced rents. However, the overall finding was that in 2013, more than three-fifths of low-income renters were severely rent burdened in all 11 cities, and the drastic scarcity of affordable unity meant they "had little recourse to get out from under such crushing rent burdens."

"Many such renters are trapped in housing units with rents that eat up sizable portions of their incomes," the report said.

Across the country, half of all renters are now spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to a comprehensive Harvard study, up from 38 percent of renters in 2000. Last year, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan declared the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has ever known.

Apparently, the problem is that a lot of new development has gone to high-end buyers in luxury condos and apartments. So while there is no shortage of apartments in Brooklyn with skyline views and private gyms, there's not much left for middle-class renters.
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