Ground Up

The Daily Record's real estate blog

RentCafé: Baltimore rentals too pricey for tenants

Baltimore led the nation in the lowest share of income an average worker would need to buy a median-priced home at 10.2 percent, according to the Q1 2018 U.S. Home Affordability Report, released Thursday. (File photo)

Rents charged for homes and apartments in Baltimore are out of reach for many residents, according to a recent report by RentCafé. (File photo)

Baltimore is among the least accessible rental markets in the nation, according to a recent analysis.

A study by website RentCafé found of the nation’s 50 most populous cities Baltimore has one of the lowest percentages of rental properties tenants can afford. Residents making the “median renters household income” of $33,340 a year, according to the report, can afford the rent on about 30 percent of available units.

That’s based on an assessment of the total number of rental units, the median renter household income, and gross rents, using American Census Survey one-year results. Baltimore ranked sixth worst in the nation in terms of rental accessibility. But it still outperformed some cities, including Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia.

Median gross rent in Baltimore increased 18 percent from $880 a month in 2011 to $1,035 a month in jump-nelson-kohl-apartmentsmf032017, according to RentCafé. At the same time median renter income increased nearly 37 percent from $24,402 a year in 2011 to $33,340 a year in 2017. Nationwide, according to RentCafé, rents increased 16 percent from 2011 to 2017 while median income for renter households surged by at least 26 percent during that time.

The accessibility rate, which compares incomes and the number of units that are affordable, increased from 25 percent to 30 percent. That was not enough, however, to keep up with other cities. As a result Baltimore fell two places in RentCafé’s rankings.

A household is considered rent burdened if it spends more than 30 percent of its monthly income on rent. The Abell Foundation issued a report in 2016 that found that 57 percent of tenants in the city pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent, and 33 percent pay more than half.

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, in its most recent Vital Signs report, discovered between 2006-2010 and 2011-2015 the percentage of households paying more than 30 percent of total income on rent in the city dropped from 52.7 percent to 51.6 percent.

“Following national trends in other metropolitan areas, the percentage of renter households is increasing in Baltimore. However, rent affordability is a burden for more than 50 (percent) of Baltimore renter households, and the neighborhoods with higher rates also have high rates of housing voucher use,” according to the Vital Signs report.

The city neighborhoods, according to BNIA, with the greatest percentage of tenants paying more than 30 percent of income in rent:

  • Belair-Edison: 69.9 percent
  • Washington Village/Pigtown: 67.2 percent
  • Madison/East End: 66.3 percent

Communities with the lowest percentage of tenants paying more than 30 percent of total household income in rent:

  • Canton: 30.3 percent
  • Fells Point: 32.3 percent

The median household income in the Baltimore area in 2018, which includes nearby suburban jurisdictions, is $94,400 a year, according to the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Affordable housing is broadly defined as rental properties offering reduced rent for residents making up to 80 percent of the area median income. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s regional plan for sustainable development estimated in 2015 the region needed 70,000 more affordable housing units.

Terrell Askew, a member of the Remington Housing Workgroup, speaks during a rally outside City Hall on Thursday. Backers of a proposal showed support for the Fund the Trust Act prior to the bill's first hearing. (Adam Bednar)

Terrell Askew, a member of the Remington Housing Workgroup, speaks during a rally outside supporting affordable housing outside City Hall. (Adam Bednar)

One of the largest proposals to build new affordable housing in Baltimore is PSO Housing Co.’s planned $889 million redevelopment of the Perkins Homes, the former Somerset Courts public housing site, and the Old Town Mall area. That plan calls for 1,629 residential units, 126,400 square feet of retail, and 209,015 square feet of “employment space” in East Baltimore.

Roughly 45 percent of the residential units are slated for residents making 30 percent or less of the area median income, the equivalent of a family of four making $28,450 a year.

Affordable housing activists in Baltimore have sought to provide more affordable units in the city. In 2016, city voters approved a trust fund to set aside revenues to build affordable housing units. But there was no dedicated revenue stream for the fund.

The Baltimore City Council, on Monday, approved a bill expected to provide $13 million annually to the fund. Mayor Catherine Pugh, who has promised to sign the legislation, also agreed to provide the fund with $7 million in additional city money by 2020.

Pugh has also created a community investment fund that’s expected to provide more than $50 million to spur revitalization efforts in city neighborhoods. Some of those funds are expected to go toward affordable housing.



To purchase a reprint of this article, contact reprints@thedailyrecord.com.


  1. I hate to be cynical, but I see affordable housing all over the place. There are plenty of darn cheap units. Yeah, they’re not in the perfect neighborhood and they’re not in the most desirable locations, but they’re much closer to the core of the city than in many other places.

    I don’t know how they did this survey or how the fiddled with the stats, but it seems like there are plenty of affordable units out there.

  2. The current affordable housing is old and uninhabitable. It may seem like a lot, but that’s for two reasons. Some are gov housing that are in the projects, and many residents over gov earning thresholds simply don’t qualify even if they earn a dollar above. Also, what appears like affordable housing are merely homes that are of poor quality and are in poor condition yet overly priced. Nationally and particularly in Baltimore, earnings aren’t keeping pace with the cost of inflation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *