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America's Most Expensive Neighborhoods for Renters

We’re looking at you, New York, San Francisco, and L.A.

Robert Crum / Shutterstock.com

Forget groceries, utilities, and dining out—every American knows that the single largest drain on a budget is housing. As homeownership dips to its lowest level in decades, rent has become increasingly unaffordable in America’s superstar cities and tech hubs. In San Francisco and L.A., typical renters can expect to pay about half of their total income to housing and more than 40 percent in New York City, according to a recent Zillow analysis. Across the nation as a whole, rent eats up an average of 30 percent of income to housing, the highest figure since Zillow began tracking this data.

And these are city-wide averages: The share of household income put toward rent goes even higher in certain neighborhoods. But just how high can the rent go in America’s most expensive neighborhoods?

To get us started, take a look at the table below, which lists the 25 most expensive U.S. neighborhoods to rent in based on Zillow’s Rent Index (ZRI). This index, which covers June 2015, measures monthly median rent for all homes in a neighborhood (based on attributes such as physical facts about the home, prior sale transactions, tax assessment information and geographic location, and estimated market value).

25 U.S. Neighborhoods with the Highest Monthly Median Rent

Rank Region Name Metro Rent/Month
1 Bel Air Los Angeles $10,629
2 Pacific Palisades Los Angeles $7,987
3 Beverly Glen Los Angeles $7,667
4 Brentwood Los Angeles $7,403
5 Poet's Quarter Los Angeles $7,075
6 Jordan Park-Laurel Heights San Francisco $7,000
7 La Gorce Miami-Fort Lauderdale $6,932
8 Lake San Francisco $6,521
9 Cow Hollow San Francisco $6,471
10 Pacific Heights San Francisco $6,380
11 Riverside Stamford $6,380
12 Financial District San Francisco $6,373
13 Marina San Francisco $6,362
14 Parnassus-Ashbury San Francisco $6,196
15 Forest Hill San Francisco $5,891
16 Berkley/Foxhall Crescents Washington $5,868
17 Kings Point New York $5,763
18 Spring Valley Washington $5,740
19 Eureka Valley-Dolores Heights-Castro San Francisco $5,665
20 Chelsea New York $5,649
21 Noe Valley San Francisco $5,560
22 Hollywood Hills Los Angeles $5,557
23 Baywood Knolls San Francisco $5,531
24 Cheviot Hills Los Angeles $5,511
25 Russian Hill San Francisco $5,486

The top five spots are all taken by upscale neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Topping this list is Bel Air, where the median rent is a whopping $10,269, followed by Pacific Palisades at $7,987, Beverly Glen at $7,667, Brentwood at $7,403, and Poets Quarter at $7,075. California’s two largest cities dominate the list: L.A. has 7 neighborhoods among the top 25 and San Francisco has 12, including Cow Hollow ($6,471), Pacific Heights ($6,380), Noe Valley ($5,560), and Russian Hill ($5,486). New York City and Washington, D.C., have two each, and Miami and Stamford, Connecticut each have one.

Of course, the neighborhoods at the very top of this list are known for their big homes and mansions. Bigger houses of course carry higher price tags. So, what happens when we control for the size of places being rented?

The table below is based on Zillow’s estimates for the top 25 neighborhoods with the highest median rent per square foot. We calculated the rent for a 1,000 square foot apartment.

25 U.S. Neighborhoods with the Highest Rent Per Square Foot

Rank Region Name Metro Rent for a 1,000 Square Foot Apt.
1 West Village New York $6,030
2 Flatiron District New York $5,760
3 Chelsea New York $5,700
4 Midtown New York $5,640
5 Clinton New York $5,510
6 Greenwich Village New York $5,480
7 Little Italy New York $5,430
8 Columbus Circle New York $5,390
9 Downtown San Francisco $5,350
10 Turtle Bay New York $5,340
11 Battery Park New York $5,230
12 Murray Hill New York $5,170
13 Sutton Place New York $5,140
14 Lower East Side New York $5,110
15 East Village New York $5,110
16 Financial District New York $5,080
17 Gramercy New York $5,060
18 Upper West Side New York $5,050
19 South Beach San Francisco $4,960
20 Yerba Buena San Francisco $4,910
21 Upper East Side New York $4,900
22 Tudor City New York $4,780
23 North Waterfront San Francisco $4,690
24 Van Ness-Civic Center San Francisco $4,690
25 North Beach San Francisco $4,560

This list is dominated by neighborhoods in two cities: New York and San Francisco. New York City neighborhoods take the top eight spots and total 19 of the top 25. The West Village tops the list, where an average 1,000 square foot apartment is priced at $6,030 per month. That’s more than the monthly take home salary of someone earning $100,000 per year. And according to Zillow’s own rent affordability calculator, it would take an after tax monthly income of around $15,000—or roughly $250,000 before taxes—with no other major debts or expenses to afford to live there. Next in line is the Flatiron District ($5,760), followed by Chelsea ($5,700), and Midtown ($5,640). San Francisco neighborhoods like Downtown ($5,350), Yerba Buena ($4,910) and North Beach ($4,560) take the remaining 6 of the top 25. It would take an after tax monthly income of more than $11,000—around $200,000 a year before taxes—and no other expenses to afford to live in one of these neighborhoods.  

A similar pattern can be seen in the table below, based on data from Zumper for July of 2015, which lists the 25 most expensive places to rent a one bedroom apartment.

25 U.S. Neighborhoods with the Highest Median One Bedroom Rent

Rank Region Name City Rent for a 1,000 Square Foot Apt.
1 NoMad New York $4,630
2 Flatiron District New York $4,300
3 Margate City Margate City, NJ $4,250
4 Chelsea New York $4,120
5 Tribeca New York $4,100
6 Pacific Heights San Francisco $4,000
7 Gramercy Park New York $3,990
8 SOMA San Francisco $3,920
9 Battery Park City New York* $3,900
10 Vinegar Hill New York $3,880
11 Soho New York $3,880
12 DUMBO New York $3,850
13 West Village New York $3,800
14 Mission Bay San Francisco $3,780
15 NoHo New York $3,780
16 South Beach San Francisco $3,760
17 Koreatown New York $3,750
18 Garment District New York $3,730
19 Russian Hill San Francisco $3,700
20 Marina San Francisco $3,700
21 Financial District New York $3,650
22 Diamond Head-Kapahulu Urban Honolulu, HI $3,610
23 Greenwich Village New York $3,600
24 Mission San Francisco $3,600
25 South Beach Fort Piece, FL $3,580

Again, New York and San Francisco neighborhoods dominate the top spots. Now, NYC’s NoMad tops the list at number one ($4,630 per month), followed by the Flatiron District ($4,300), Margate City, NJ ($4,250), Chelsea ($4,120), and Tribeca ($4,100). Pacific Heights in San Francisco is not far behind, with a one-bedroom apartment priced at $4,000. All in all, New York City racks up 15 of the top 25 most expensive places to rent, and San Francisco takes 7.

While rents are most expensive in L.A.’s most exclusive neighborhoods, on a pound-for-pound basis, New York City and San Francisco are far and away the most expensive places to rent in America. Even people with six-figure incomes cannot afford the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in these cities’ most expensive neighborhoods. No wonder housing affordability has become a leading, if not the leading, political issue in San Francisco and New York. What remains to be seen is whether such incredibly high rents will begin to stifle and suffocate the very diversity and creative energy that have long powered these neighborhoods and cities.

*CORRECTION: This article originally located Battery Park City in San Francisco. It is, of course, located in New York.

Top image: Robert Crum / Shutterstock.com

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