Markers of Gentrification: Mapping Rent as a Share of Income

Our Kwelia heat maps have been a great way to visualize rental prices with a detailed, city-wide view of median prices per square foot, and today the maps are getting additional features. Now, in addition to the median price per square foot overlay, you can explore every rental market by median income as well as by median rent as a percentage of median income. Simply toggle the “switch layers” button on the bottom left portion of the map and select your desired data layer to look around.

Where does the data come from, and what are these metrics?

Edit: An earlier version of our maps did not contain proper attribution for OpenStreetMap contributors. We apologize for this oversight and have updated our maps accordingly.

Both layers use median household income data from the 2012 5-year American Community Survey for the median income. The median rent / median income layer provides a quick glance into the affordability of an area. While not the same as the share of income paid by renters, our median rent-to-median income ratio indicates what percentage of their income the average person in that neighborhood would have to pay to rent the average apartment in that neighborhood. In other words, while the share of income paid by renters will stay bounded between 0-100%, it is quite possible (and does happen) that the median rent-to-median income ratio exceeds 100%. This could potentially happen for a variety of factors, including: multiple people splitting rent for an expensive apartment, time lags between the older income data and the up-to-date Kwelia rental data, or simply too few rental price observations in a neighborhood to provide an accurate median rental rate.

Median rent over median income is most useful for relative comparisons, so to provide some explanation for what “30% of income” means, we have also provided median income data in the info hover panels as well as a separate median income map layer to contextualize the rent share of income data.

Finding hot neighborhoods with rent as a share of income:

While we initially mapped the ratio of rent to income to see how this metric varied within and across cities, we found that it unexpectedly gave us a view into another category: neighborhoods with rapidly increasing rents. Because of the time lag between the 2012 5-year ACS income data and the real-time Kwelia rental data, the ratio of rent-to-income in neighborhoods with rapidly increasing rents is outsized relative to other neighborhoods. We’ve collected some examples of hot neighborhoods from cities across the United States below. Does the median rental share of income in your city highlight up-and-coming neighborhoods too?

San Francisco,%20CA

New York,%20NY-NJ-PA


Las Vegas,%20N



Los Angeles,%20CA


16 thoughts on “Markers of Gentrification: Mapping Rent as a Share of Income

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