How Many Square Feet Does $1,500 a Month Get You?

Right now, a household earning the national median income of $70,784 a year can afford about $1,775 in monthly rent without becoming “rent burdened” (meaning that 30 percent of income is needed to cover rent). But of course, not every U.S. rental market is the same. A new study by RentCafe gives renters some guidance on which of the country’s 100 largest metro areas offer the most space for the money.

Using the nice round number of $1,500 a month as a base — just under that $1,775 threshold — researchers found that cities in the Midwest and the South easily outstrip their coastal counterparts in bang-for-buck economy.

For New Yorkers or anyone living in a large coastal city, $1,500 in rent seems almost impossibly low, and the study bears that out. In Manhattan, it rents just 243 square feet — the fewest among the 100 biggest metros. In Brooklyn it rents 342 square feet, and in Queens 393 square feet. (For the purpose of the study, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens were treated as individual markets.) But you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that cheap in the city. A recent search of Zillow turned up 183 New York City apartments available for $1,500 or less — not a lot for a city of 3.2 million households.

For ample elbow room, head to the center of the country. In Wichita, Kan., $1,500 a month gets you 1,463 square feet, the most for the money. Toledo, Ohio, and Tulsa, Okla., are next, offering slightly fewer square feet for the dollar.

Interestingly, while the total square footage of the most expensive area, Manhattan, was roughly one sixth the size of the least expensive, Wichita, no single metro was shown to have much larger or smaller apartments overall. On average, apartments across the country measured within a few hundred feet, even in the most and least expensive places, as shown on this week’s chart.

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