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Want to rent in Boston? Get a $50-an-hour job

If you want to rent a midrange apartment in Boston, you'll need to make $100,000 a year.

Zillow, the online real estate company, recently analyzed median rents around Massachusetts and the incomes needed to afford them. It concluded that a single person in Boston would need a job paying $50 a hour, or about $100,000 a year, to afford the median rent of $2,497 a month.

Someone making less than $25 an hour, or $50,000 a year, could afford the median rent in only a handful of communities around the state.

Even in traditionally affordable cities like Brockton and Chelsea, the rents are sky-high, compared to incomes. In Chelsea, the hourly wage needed for an individual to afford the median rent of $2,119 a month is $42 an hour. The actual median hourly wage for renters? Just over $14, according to the US Census.


In Boston, the median income of households that rent is just $18 an hour, or about $36,000 a year.

"There's no home for low-income folks," said Michael E. Stone, a professor emeritus of community planning at the University of Massachusetts Boston who studies the rental market. "There's no place where they can find a home within reach, except if they are lucky enough to find a subsidized unit."

Rents, of course, become more affordable if households have two or more incomes. In addition, the median is a midpoint, so about half the rents are below that figure.

The problem of housing affordability is not limited to Massachusetts. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a household with one full-time minimum wage earner can't afford the fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

Zillow's calculations use a standard affordability measure — with 30 percent of income going toward housing, in order for a tenant to have enough to pay for groceries, transportation, medical care, and other expenses.


In Massachusetts, however, one in four renters spend at least 50 percent of household income on rent. In Boston, more than half of renters are using more than 30 percent of their incomes to pay rent, and those households are disproportionately people of color and elderly women, Stone said.

The Zillow rental data is the median of the estimated monthly rent for all housing in an area, using surrounding rental prices and public property data. It doesn't account for the distribution of rents below the median price that might be more affordable. But it is significant nonetheless, Stone said.

The priciest rental market in the state? Weston, where a renter would need to bring in $77 an hour to afford the median rent of $3,867 a month. The actual median renter income in Weston: $23 an hour.

In Athol, where that $23 an hour wage would cover the median monthly rent of $1,125, the actual renter income is less than $16 an hour.


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Katie Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.