While griping over DC’s cost of living may feel unjustified in comparison to say, New York City’s housing orices, a recent GOBankingRates survey confirms, yet again, that the rental rates in the District are among the worst out there—and won’t be relenting any time soon. According to the survey, which uses a 50-30-20 equation to estimate the total cost of living (50% of income going directly to necessities, 30% going to disposable income, and 20% going to savings) in order to live a “comfortable” life in our nation’s capital you need to make $83,104 a year. Of course, that is not what most Washingtonians make. According to the survey the median household income hovers around a slightly-more-modest $69,235, but the bottom line is that for those looking for a well-rounded district lifestyle, breaking 50k just doesn’t cut it.
DC falls below just four other US cities (out of the 75 included in the survey), closing in on Boston, New York, and San Jose at $84,422, $87,446, and $89,787, respectively. But none of those come close to the living costs in San Francisco, where you aren’t out of the red unless you’re banking upwards of six figures annually. GOBankingRates puts the figure at $119,570, a whopping $36,466 more than what it takes to be comfortable in DC. The difference is more than the median household income of several other cities on the list such as Tucson, Memphis, Milwaukee, Detroit, or Miami (though not quite enough to live in any of the cities “comfortably”).
While the exact figures are new, we’re sure you know by now that similar surveys and polls in the past few years have supported this trend of rising housing costs: in September of 2005 real estate website Zumper.com also came out with a National Report ranking those same five cities as most expensive for rentals, with San Jose coming in fourth rather than second. For answers as to why the market has become so competitive, analysts like Stan Humphries, the Chief Analytics Officer at real estate website Zillow, note that while dense metropolitan cities like DC have been some of the fastest areas to recover from the recession in terms of job growth, the number of people who lost possession of their homes or are struggling with poor credit as a result of the recession has also skyrocketed. Those people are competing for rentals too. To top it off, according to the same New York Times article, in 2014 “rents rose at a 3.2 percent rate, more than twice the pace of overall inflation.”
Nevertheless, amid constant growth and a changing landscape, DC values seem to be holding steady. When a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey abridged in the New York Times tried to pinpoint what, exactly, the population of each city tends to spend their disposable income on Washingtonians didn’t go for glitzy splurges like designer clothes or flashy cars. The must-buy status symbol of the district? Reference books … you know, encyclopedias, thesauruses, dictionaries.
Time to upgrade the paperback college edition.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, Stan Humphries’ name was misspelled.