When experts talk about renters being able to "afford" where they live, there's this mystical housing costs benchmark that gets used: 30 percent. That's how much of a household's income is supposed to go toward housing; more, and that housing is technically not affordable for those tenants (spending more than that means cutting into other costs or other spending that keeps a local economy going). For many Angelenos, especially the young ones, that number is ridiculous, achievable only with multiple roommates—like, a college-dorm-level amount of roommates. Perhaps that's because, according to Bloomberg (using data from Zillow), the median rent in LA is and has been unaffordable for people ages 22 to 34 "since at least the Carter administration." For native young Angelenos, that means it's likely your parents had to wring their paychecks to make rent too. And LA is and always has been way more unaffordable than any other big US city.
Zillow arrived at these depressing findings by comparing the median rent with median income for "young workers" in each metro, quarterly, starting in 1979 and going through the first quarter of 2015. The magenta line for LA on the resulting chart starts above 30 percent at 1979, meaning that, even then, housing was technically unaffordable for many young people here; the other cities—including New York and San Francisco—never even touch it.
Though it's true that rent in 1980s and 1990s Los Angeles was taking up more of young people's paychecks than it should, at least the median rent remained less than 40 percent of their median income. By 2010 the median rent was eating up a whopping 45 percent of the median household's income. The last point on the chart, the first quarter of 2015, shows median rent at 48.7 percent of median income for people between the ages of 22 and 34. Good luck ever buying a house! (Although, in LA, that's something even older people can't swing.)
Of course, this issue is not just a young-folks problem. Wages that don't keep pace with the rising cost of housing are a big part of the problem, especially in LA, which has the nation's biggest gap between what people are paid and what those people pay in rent. There's also the shortage of housing even getting built that keeps the supply tight and pricey for everyone.
· The Exact Moment Big Cities Got Too Expensive for Millennials [Bloomberg]
· Here's How Much More You Have to Be Making to Afford a House, Millennials [Curbed LA]
· Los Angeles Has the Most People Paying an Insane Amount of Their Income Toward Housing [Curbed LA]
· Los Angeles Has the Biggest Disconnect in the US Between Wages and Rents [Curbed LA]