Is there a rental crisis in the United States? According to census data from 1980 – 2014, there is. Over this period, while coastal cities saw significant increases in incomes, rental rises have far exceeded growth in income. Washington, DC saw incomes rise by 33 percent as rents rose by 86%. Furthermore, for the country as a whole, median household incomes have fallen as median rental prices have risen (see the figure below).
In terms of inflation adjusted dollars, rents have far outpaced inflation. According to the American Community Survey, after accounting for inflation, median rents have risen by more than $100 since 2000.
Given that these rental increases have been geographically concentrated, this trend has been magnified in certain places (see the image before). This geographic concentration and the loose relationship between rental price growth and income growth implies that particular characteristics of a place (e.g. availability of space) and policies (e.g. particular regulations on building) may be driving differences.