Wage-Rent Gap for Millennials Living in Mid-Size Cities Highest in Santa Barbara Area

Millennial Workers Made 61.5 Percent Less Than What They Needed to Comfortably Afford Rent for One-Bedroom Apartment

Credit: Courtesy

The Santa Barbara-Santa Maria metropolitan area won the dubious distinction of having the biggest gap between wages and rents for millennial renters out of all mid-size cities detailed in a recent housing report issued by Filterbuy, a national company that sells home air filtration systems. 

Using data accumulated by the U.S. Census Bureau, Filterbuy concluded that in the Santa Barbara-Santa Maria market, millennial workers — ages 24-39 — made 61.5 percent less than what they needed to afford renting a one-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30 percent of their wages as rent. According to the data provided by Filterbuy, wage earners in Santa barbara would need to take home $87,080 in order to pay only 30 percent of their earnings on a median-priced one-bedroom apartment. 

In second place on Filterbuy’s list of the top 15 cities with the highest wage-rent gaps in the country was Oxnard at 51.1 percent. Among bigger cities, Los Angeles ranked first, San Francisco fifth, and San Jose seventh. 

During COVID, the gap between what it cost to rent and the pay for millennial workers narrowed somewhat because of emergency rent control ordinances and emergency tenant protections. But nationally, rents have jumped by 17.6 percent since 2021 and another 6.7 percent in 2022. 

Wages have gone up somewhat because of the COVID-induced shortage or available employees, but not nearly enough to offset years of wage stagnation. According to Filterbuy’s report, median hourly wages have increased by 6 percent since 2014, while median rents have gone up 25 percent throughout the United States in that same time.

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