A new study finds that Triangle renters need to earn more to afford a median-priced one-bedroom apartment. 

Smartest Dollar, a personal finance website, published a list of cities and metro areas with the largest “renter wage gap,” or a calculation factoring the median cost of a one-bedroom apartment, the hourly wage needed to make it affordable, and the estimated hourly wages of renters. (“Affordable” means rent that doesn’t exceed 30 percent of one’s monthly earnings.)

For the study, the website combined Durham-Chapel Hill and Raleigh-Cary into separate geographic areas.

In Durham-Chapel Hill, the combined median price for a one-bedroom is $981 a month, which would require an hourly wage of $18.86 to make it affordable. The estimated hourly wage of renters is $15.19, however, creating a 19.4 percent gap, which landed Durham-Chapel Hill No. 263 nationwide.

Raleigh-Cary fared far worse. Collectively, they had the ninth-highest renter wage gap among the 53 large metropolitan areas included in the report. 

According to the study, the median price of a one-bedroom apartment in Raleigh-Cary is $1,134. Even though the hourly wage needed to rent one of the units is $21.81 an hour, the study found that the estimated hourly wage for renters is $12.01, leaving a gap of 44 percent.

The study notes that with the onset of the pandemic the nation’s economy has been especially challenging for many renters. 

“Many of the people who have been most likely to lose jobs or wages during the pandemic are also more likely to rent than to own their homes,” according to the study’s synopsis. “Meanwhile, COVID-19 has driven housing prices higher for renters and home buyers alike due to high demand and low supply. As a result, the typical renter has less to spend on housing that is becoming more expensive.”

Just as worrisome, the study notes that rental prices have grown faster than wages across the country, with the pandemic accelerating trends that have been ongoing in the U.S. rental market for nearly 20 years. They point to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which indicates median gross rents increased faster than median rental household income between 2001 and 2018 in 45 states and the District of Columbia. 

Overall, North Carolina ranked 34th among the 50 states in renter wage gap. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia ranked 37th among large metro areas, and Asheville ranked seventh among midsize metros.

The study examined 350 metro areas and applied monthly rental prices for one-bedroom apartments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The study relied on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the estimated hourly wage for renters.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.