People in These States Are Having the Hardest Time Paying Rent

Two people looking worried while reviewing bills at their kitchen table.

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Renters in Florida, California, and Hawaii spend the highest percentage of their incomes on rent.

Housing prices are up across the country, from the purchase prices of homes to the rental prices of apartments. Unfortunately, with inflation also at a high not seen in 13 years and the minimum wage stagnant, housing affordability is more and more of a problem.

What you pay for rent where you live depends on several factors, including the state where you reside, whether the area is rural or a metro, and how large a residence you require. We took a look at the median rent price by state and the median household income in each state to determine which states' residents may have the most difficult time coming up with the rent.

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Based on median rent and median household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the three states where you'll spend the largest percentage of your income on rent (for a one-bedroom apartment) are Florida, California, and Hawaii.

State Median rent for 1BR apt. Median household income % of income spent on rent
Florida $1,175 $55,660 25.3%
California $1,503 $75,235 24%
Hawaii $1,617 $81,275 23.9%
Data source: U.S. Census Bureau and author's calculations.

Florida has a median rent of $1,175, which doesn't sound so bad, but its median household income is just $55,660, meaning that approximately 25.3% of a household's yearly income is spent on the rent bill alone. Meanwhile, California and Hawaii have significantly higher median rent prices -- $1,503 and $1,617 respectively -- but their median incomes are also significantly higher at $75,235 for California and $81,275 for Hawaii. This means Californians spend a total of 24% of income on rent, and Hawaiians spend roughly 23.9%.

Keep in mind, too, that the median rents in this data are for one-bedroom apartments, meaning the majority of households (i.e. those with children) are looking at even higher rent prices to accommodate varying family sizes.

Minimum wage earners don't stand a chance

The median household incomes in these three states are well above minimum wage earnings. Folks earning minimum wage in these states unfortunately don't stand a chance of comfortably affording the median rent for a one-bedroom residence.

Californians making the state minimum wage of $14 per hour would have to spend 62% of their earnings on rent, while Floridians making the new state average of $10 per hour (effective Sept. 30, 2021), will spend 67.8% of their earnings on rent. Hawaiians are on a whole different level of difficulty. Making just $10.10 per hour at minimum wage, they would have to spend 92.4% of annual income to afford the median rent on a one-bedroom apartment.

This is a big problem. It's recommended that people spend no more than 30% of their incomes on housing. This is so they have room left in the budget to afford things like groceries, gas, childcare, vehicle payments and maintenance, and a slew of other things. Someone spending 60%, 70%, or more than 90% of their income on rent alone would not have enough left in the budget to account for these other items, let alone to build an emergency fund.

Honorable mention

While Washington, D.C. isn't a state -- yet -- it deserves honorable mention here. Data from Rentable shows that median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. in 2020 came in at $2,324. That's higher than the average in any state. D.C. also has the highest median household income, at $85,203, but that still makes the percentage of income spent on rent in D.C. a whopping 32.7%. And again, families who need more than a one-bedroom are looking at even higher housing costs. Not to mention additional costs for things like utilities and, in some cases, parking or garage space.

What to do if you're having a difficult time paying rent

Whether or not you live in one of the states mentioned above, if you're having trouble affording your rent, there are some options you can pursue.

Your personal situation will dictate which of these options may work best for you. If you're single living in a two-bedroom rental, a roommate might be just the ticket to cut your rent in half. If you're married with kids, taking on a roommate or a cross-country move might be more difficult. You might have to focus instead on squeezing more money out of your job, whether that means asking for a raise or changing jobs or professions. Side hustles are always a popular choice as well because the possibilities are almost endless, and a lot of side hustles can be extremely lucrative if you have the time to dedicate to them.

Mortgage rates are expected to stay low at least over the next couple of years. So once more homes hit the market and competition for housing slows, we should hopefully see home purchase prices and rent prices trend back down and give homeowners and renters a little bit of much-needed relief. But until that happens, renters and homeowners alike will have to buckle down, do their research, and make the best of the options at hand.

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