Rent vs. Income

Are wages keeping up with rising Dallas rents? Not even close.

Are wages keeping up with rising Dallas rents? Not even close.

Thanks-Giving Square
Rent is high and wages are low right now in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Dallas CVB

Rents are rising in Dallas, but unfortunately, incomes aren't keeping up. In fact, Dallasites are way more cost-burdened than we were even 15 years ago.

Apartment List analyzed U.S. Census data from 1960-2014 and found that inflation-adjusted rents have risen by 64 percent nationally, but real household incomes only increased by 19 percent.

During the particularly grim first decade of the 21st century, household incomes actually fell by 9 percent, while rents rose by 18 percent. For the total duration of the study, cost-burdened renters nationwide more than doubled, from 24 percent in 1960 to 49 percent in 2014.

"The U.S. renter population is larger than it has ever been (43 million households, or 37 percent of the total population), and nearly half of them are struggling to pay rent," writes Apartment List's director of data science and growth, Andrew Woo.

Here in Dallas, incomes were rising steadily until about 2003, when they took a sudden dip and have struggled to recover ever since. Since 1980, rents have increased about 25 percent, from $761 to $948. The median income for renters right now is $38,406, just slightly above the $37,237 it was in 1980.

The numbers are depressing in Houston, too, where rent is up nearly 20 percent ($807 to $940) but income is actually down about 10 percent. A renter would have made about $42,225 in 1980, but now they make only $38,447. That scenario is on par with the rest of the South and Midwest, with one major exception: Austin.

Both rent and income there have risen significantly, and both are about 40 percent above where they were in 1980. While rent may be a pricey $1,092 now compared to only $761 then, renters are bringing home $43,634 versus $30,227.

Apartment List points out that while Austin's population has more than doubled since 1980, the city's strong employment growth and attractiveness to millennials have given it the most impressive boost in the country.