Can You Afford To Live In Chicago? (Armour Square Ranked Least Affordable)

Originally posted on July 17, 2017 12:00 pm
Updated on July 17, 2017 1:03 pm

Less than a Third of Chicago Neighborhoods are Affordable

Curious which parts of Chicago are actually affordable? With widely varying rents across the city ($725 in Burnside vs $3,100 in Near North Side for the median two-bedroom) it’s no surprise that some neighborhoods have rents that are just too damn high. Given that income varies across neighborhoods as well, this means that most expensive neighborhood isn’t necessarily the least affordable.

Of the 69 Chicago neighborhoods that we had data for, just 21 had median rents within reach of the median income for that neighborhood and three of those were right at the limit. Below, we’ve mapped out all the neighborhoods and their affordability. Further down is a table with all available neighborhoods, rents, and incomes.

We used data from a 2016 study by researchers Dr. Jim Lewis (UIC) and Rob Paral (Fellow in the Global Cities Program of the Chicago) based on the Census American Community Survey, to get median household income for Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. This, combined with RentHop’s own rental data has allowed us to calculate which neighborhoods are and are not affordable in Chicago.

The 40x Rule – 30% of Income

You may have heard you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your income on rent. The way the math works out, your household’s yearly income should be 40 times the monthly rent to afford an apartment and many landlords won’t accept anyone who doesn’t.

For example: The Loop’s $2,885 median two-bedroom rent would require household income of $115,400 to secure and the median household income is only $88,756. The average household would be spending nearly 40% of their income to rent a new apartment in the Loop. Not good, but other neighborhoods are much worse!

There are exceptions to the rule: If you have vast savings or a guarantor whom makes 80 times the rent, a landlord is likely to let you slide without meeting the income requirements. It’s also not unheard of for a landlord to request last month’s rent in addition to the first month and security deposit for those with below average credit / income. Our “how much can I afford” guide can give you a little more info on these rules and some ways to overcome them.

So how much income DO you need in order to live in a Chicago neighborhood?

The Map Below Shows Income Required for a 2-Bedroom Apartment in Chicago

The map above shows the median cost of two-bedroom apartments across Chicago and how that relates to the income of those neighborhoods. Shades of red indicates less affordability. Green indicates that median household income would be enough to secure an apartment there and not pay over 30% of one’s income for rent.

It’s important to keep in mind that these are median asking rents and not the rent paid by all residents of these neighborhoods. Median rent means that half of apartments rent for less than this amount and half are above. Neighborhoods where RentHop didn’t have sufficient data will be grayed out.

These Chicago Neighborhoods Are The Least Affordable

Amour Square topped the list of unaffordable neighborhoods due to it high median two-bedroom rent ($1,995) and low median household income ($23,590). Armour Square closely borders the Illinois Institute of Technology campus as well as Comiskey Park err Guaranteed Rate Field. The constant development of new apartments paid for with money from outside the neighborhood have made Armour Square an epicenter of gentrification on the South Side of Chicago. One would need to spend over 100% of the area household income to afford the typical apartment here.

We found East Garfield Park ($1,375 median 2Br rent) to be the second least affordable, with one needing to spend almost 75% of the median household income ($22,103) to rent. Oakland (64%) New City (62%) and Englewood (57%) round out the top 5.

The Table Below Displays All Two-Bedroom Median Asking Rents 

It also shows the percent of income spent and income required in all neighborhoods for which we had sufficient data. You can sort by price, alphabetically, or (un)affordability by clicking the top of the column.

Is There Anywhere in Chicago That’s Actually Affordable?

Click a column head to re-sort the table in ascending order. This will show us the most affordable places in Chicago. Topping the list is a bunch of north side and far southwest side neighborhoods.

Beverly’s $91,239 median income makes the $1,500 median rent easily affordable, requiring just 19.7% of that income for an apartment. Forest Glen apartments are easily within reach, at $1,450 for a two-bedroom requiring 20.6% of the $84,347 median income for rent.

Calumet Heights (21.7% of income for a two-bedroom) Edison Park (22%) and Mount Greenwood (22.9%) round out the top 5 most affordable neighborhoods. Nearly all of these neighborhoods were helped along by the higher incomes and reasonable rents, highlighting the income disparity that exists in Chicago today.

Lincoln Park earned an honorable mention, with the median rent of $2,020 requiring just 27.6% of the area median income ($87,694) to comfortably rent a two-bedroom.

What Does This Mean For You?

While these stats aren’t the only factor that determines what one can and cannot afford, they certainly give an advantage to anyone that didn’t know where to start when deciding where to live and how much they can afford. We encourage you to entertain all options when finding a new apartment, including having as many income-earners in the household as possible and looking at apartments with more bedrooms to bring down the average cost per bedroom.

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