Housing prices in the U.S. aren’t what they used to be. They have been rising steadily over the past decade, so much so that the classic American dream of owning a house with a white picket fence is a thing of the past. It’s getting harder and harder to live in urban America for both homebuyers and renters. Saving up for a downpayment could take more than a lifetime for the average homebuyer, and people are buying their first homes a lot later in life.
Renters don’t have it easy, either. People are getting married and having children much later in life, choosing instead to focus on their careers. The influx of tech-savvy, educated workers to some parts of the country, like San Francisco, Oakland, or Austin, has pushed rental rates there to all-time-highs.
Given that homebuying is, for many, no longer a viable or exciting option, we wanted to focus on renters, and see where exactly in the U.S. have rents increased the most over the past decade. So, we took the 100 most populated cities in the U.S. and used Zillow data to rank them according to the percentage difference in median rents from 2010 to 2019. Take a look at them on the map below.
Everyone’s always talking about home prices in New York City, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, and we all know by now just how expensive these cities are. But if we look at a decade’s worth of rent growth, these cities aren’t the talk of the town anymore. Prices were already high in these parts in 2010, but other cities weren’t as popular back then as they are today.
The 100 cities we looked at are - literally - all over the map, but interestingly enough, NYC and San Francisco aren’t at the very top of the list, for once. San Francisco recorded the 10th highest jump in rents in the past decade, going from a median rent of $2,270 in 2010 to $3,137 at the end of 2019 - a 38% difference over ten years. New York City lands at #15 on our list of 100 cities, with a 35% rise in rents, from $1,681 in 2010 to $2,277 in 2019.
You’ll find all the usual suspects in the list above, like San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Austin, and so on. These are, after all, the cities we’d expect to see high up in such a ranking, given their economic growth and growing popularity with Millennials and young, tech-savvy professionals. However, the very top of the list features a few cities that you might not have expected to see.
As it turns out, Aurora is the U.S. city that recorded the highest jump in median rents in the past decade. This Colorado city, part of the Denver metropolitan area, saw rental rates spike 73%, jumping from $1,190 in 2010 to $2,060 in 2019. Aurora, basically a suburb of Denver, has historically been a military and sports town, home to large corporations and high-profile employers that attract professionals to the area. Its strategic location, just 20 minutes away from Denver and the Denver International Airport, makes it an appealing destination for renters who work in the metropolitan area. The city also lies just 35 miles away from Boulder, Colo., where Google operates its new campus.
Another U.S. city to see rents rise significantly over the past decade is Boise, Idaho, which went from boasting a median rent of $865 in 2010 to $1,326 in 2019. Sure, rents in the city are well below those commanded in other parts of the country, but the significant difference signals that this might be one of the hottest targets for renters right now. We’re not the only ones to say so; Realtor.com named Boise the #1 hottest housing market for 2020. Unemployment in this city is just 2.3%, and average job growth is higher than the U.S. average, yet rents are still on the affordable side, at least when you compare them to NYC or San Francisco.
Aurora and Boise might be stealing the show when it comes to the percentage jump in rents compared to 2010, but San Jose recorded the highest difference in absolute numbers. It’s the only city on our list to see rents increase by more than $1,000 over the past ten years, which showcases the rapid growth that this city has been experiencing.
Median rents in San Jose increased 49% in the past decade, from $2,217 in 2010 to $3,300 in 2019. This means that San Jose is one of the priciest cities in the country for renters, surpassed only by Irvine and Fremont, both also in California.
The economic center of Silicon Valley, and the largest city in Northern California, San Jose, has been dubbed the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley.` It's one of the most densely populated locations in the Bay Area, as startups, IT companies, and young professionals continue to flock to the city. Google’s ‘spaceship’ campus, dubbed Apple Park, also lies just a stone’s throw in Cupertino. As a result, living in San Jose is incredibly expensive, and it’s become one of the priciest housing markets in the U.S., and also in the world.
Zooming in to a regional level, we get a better picture of the differences between different parts of the country. We wanted to showcase the U.S. cities with the highest increases in rents over the past decade, by region, to pinpoint the areas that saw the most growth from 2010 to the present.
Cities located in the Western region saw the most accelerated rent growth over the past ten years, led by Aurora, Colo., Boise, Idaho, and San Jose, Calif. As we mentioned before, Aurora recorded the biggest jump in median rents from 2010 to 2019, of 73%, while Boise recorded a 53% growth, and San Jose rents rose 49%. The 10th contender on our list of Western cities is Colorado Springs, which saw median rents increase 35%, from $1,064 in 2010 to $1,434 in 2019.
Going cross-country to the Northeast, we have 7 cities that recorded significant increases in median rents over the past decade. Boston leads the way in this region, with a 37% rise in rents over 10 years, from $1,709 in 2010 to $2,341 in 2019. Following close is New York City, where rents went from $1,681 to $2,277, marking a 35% rent growth and a $596 net gain. Newark and New Jersey also saw median rents climb during the last ten years, followed by Philadelphia, which recorded a 14% rise in rents, and Pittsburgh, where prices rose 9%. Our list of Northeastern cities ends with Buffalo, where rents also climbed 8% and surpassed the $1,000 mark in 2019.
Moving inwards on the map to look at the Midwest region, we have Cincinnati leading the way in terms of rent growth over the past ten years. This thriving economic engine of the Midwest saw median rents climb 33%, from $859 in 2010 to $1,144 in 2019. Minneapolis follows, with a rent hike of 33%, as well, with Lincoln, Nebraska, closing the top three with a 27% rent growth. Despite its economic troubles in 2013, Detroit also recorded a 15% growth in median rents over the last ten years, with prices climbing from $1,032 in 2010 to $1,191 at the end of 2019.
Last but not least, we’re looking at the cities located in the South, and here, Orlando steals the spotlight. The Florida city recorded a growth of 39% in median rents over the past ten years, rising from $1,012 to $1,409. Raleigh, N.C., is second on our list, with a 38% hike in median rents, followed by Dallas and Charlotte, both with a 36% change in median rents. Austin is the priciest city on our list, commanding a median rent of $1,581 in 2019 - a 30% difference compared to 2010. Tampa closes the list of Southern cities, with recorded rent growth of 30% from 2010 to 2019 and a $322 net gain.
The 100 cities on our list were chosen according to population numbers, extracted from the Census Population Estimate (as of July 1st, 2018).
Median rents in 2010 and 2019 were extracted from Zillow.