How Much Do Tech Pros Spend on Rent?

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Debating whether to live in a major tech hub such as San Francisco? You might be able to command a generous salary, especially if you’re a highly specialized tech pro at a major company, but the cost of living could chew a hefty chunk out of your paycheck.

Late last month, real-estate Website Radpad released a short report in which it compared the salaries at some of San Francisco’s most prominent tech companies with rents in that city. Although a software engineer at, say, Google or Salesforce can pull down anywhere from $150,000 to $170,000 per year on average, a monthly rent of $3,500 for a one-bedroom (by no means unheard-of for San Francisco) can consume nearly half of that annual take-home pay.

How do the nation’s other tech hubs measure up on the salary-versus-rent front? The following chart draws salary data from the annual Dice Salary Survey; the average monthly rents for a one-bedroom come from Zumper’s National Rent Report for 2015:

San Francisco (Silicon Valley)
Average annual tech salary: $118,243
One-bedroom monthly rent: $3,400

New York, NY
Average annual tech salary: $106,263
One-bedroom monthly rent: $3,000

Los Angeles
Average annual tech salary: $105,091
One-bedroom monthly rent: $1,730

Boston, MA
Average annual tech salary: $103,675
One-bedroom monthly rent: $2,280

Seattle, WA
Average annual tech salary: $103,309
One-bedroom monthly rent: $1,600

Washington, DC
Average annual tech salary: $102,873
One-bedroom monthly rent: $2,000

Portland, OR
Average annual tech salary: $100,309
One-bedroom monthly rent: $1,300

San Diego, CA
Average annual tech salary: $98,934
One-bedroom monthly rent: $1,480

Austin, TX
Average annual tech salary: $98,672
One-bedroom monthly rent: $1,030

In many of these cities, the rent will continue to rise; for tech pros who live there, salaries will hopefully keep pace. No wonder some techies are fleeing the big cities for environs with a better cost of living.

Image Credit: Syda Productions/Shutterstock.com

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3 Responses to “How Much Do Tech Pros Spend on Rent?”

July 21, 2016 at 7:14 am, meher said:

You can live in NJ or one of the other boroughs of NYC for less money than Manhattan. 25 minutes away rents are less than half of that.

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July 21, 2016 at 3:11 pm, John Foe said:

Agreed, 1200 for 1br in NJ, 40 mins on train from Midtown Manhattan

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July 21, 2016 at 4:52 pm, BC Shelby said:

…in Portland proper, rent, for a 1 BR is closer to 1,500$. I’ve seen studios even in what were considered working class neighbourhoods going for 1.000 – 1,200$. To get lower rents one has to look further out. The sad part about this is many who earn one fifth the quoted income also are looking at having to pay the same rents as the professionals or be pushed to the outlying areas where transit service is poorer, services are much further apart, and there is a zero “walkability” factor (many areas in the outer burbs do not even have sidewalks).

When I first moved here I could easily afford a fairly spacious one bedroom apartment in what is now trendy Northwest Portland on what I earned (about 20K$ gross a year). On that wage today, to stay in the city and keep rent within that 33% of your monthly budget, the best you can find is a room in a shared house. Even at 15$ an hour, the average rent here in Portland for a 1 BR is nearly 60% of the monthly budget. Portland also has the distinction of the fastest rising rents in the nation outpacing wage growth by a factor of better than 2:1

In spite of what is heard and read, Portland is not the “high tech haven” it is often made out to be. The city originally was built on the timber industry which is now pretty much long gone. The major employment base here is in the low income service/retail sector. The biggest tech employer here recently announced a company wide layoff of 12,000 workers which would also impact its Portland HQ. Other local companies, like e-on software, have been bought by larger firms outside the area (in the case of e-on a, European architectural graphics company).

The “real” average wage for most residents is not 100,000$ but more like 10.50$ – 12.00$ an hour. Gentrification and upscale development meant to attract young professionals has boosted prices even for older apartment buildings and rental homes in the city. Most long time residents are literally being priced out of the neighbourhoods they’ve lived in for years if not most of their lives (I’ve been here for nearly three decades). Many do not drive, partly because in the city proper, transit is very good, and services were often within walking distance or a short bike/bus ride. Not so in the burbs where to get on with life one pretty much needs a car.

So we are seeing more and more of the “new affluent”, who often have cars and drive, moving into and taking over the inner neighbourhoods. This is already putting a strain on the local streets and roadways, particularly with regards to parking (many of the new high density developments in the city do not offer on site parking).

All this new development also tends to attract businesses that cater more to the upscale market, which many of the employees who work in them cannot afford to patronise on what they earn. It’s a sad testament that in my neighbourhood I no longer can get a decent cup of coffee for less than 2.75$ now (and no free refills either). If I want something like a pastry or bagel to go along with it, I’m out 7$ (including tip).

In the next twenty years Portland’s population is expected to more than double. With a set urban growth boundary (imposed to prevent outward sprawl). it will mean more “building up” instead of building out. This will cause land values to skyrocket which in turn will further push rents, even in the outlying burbs, to unaffordable levels for the average resident (this is already beginning). As there is little room left to expand freeways and streets (without removing housing) the city’s streets and roadways will become clogged with cars making commutes take longer and longer. Low and fixed income residents will be forced to live even further out, in the communities surrounding the metro area, having to deal with even longer commutes just to get to work, school, and shopping. Meanwhile, the “new affluent” will be free to walk down to the corner Starbucks for their 6$ Venti Frappamochachinolatte or the neighbourhood Whole Paycheque for their tofu, pine nuts, and 30$ bottle Oregon Pinot Noir.

If I sound a bit bitter about all this there is a reason as I have seen the quality of life for many here actually decrease over the last twenty nine years. All this “new wealth” that has been moving in has done little to improve life for the average resident. Wages in a majority of occupations have remained stagnant while prices for everything particularly housing, continue to skyrocket, local “mom and pop” operations are replaced with upscale boutiqes, bistros, and pubs, basic grocery markets are turned into specialty or overpriced “natural” food stores, and the “neighbourly” feel the city once had is disappearing.

In their desire to make Portland more “livable” for the projected influx of affluent professionals, the city has effectively turned its back on its long time residents, making it “unliveable” for them.

This is the downside of living in a “tech hub” and not being part of the scene.

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