Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of ‘Rent’ With the Highest Rent in 20 Years

It’s the 20th anniversary of Rent—as we have noted before on The Billfold, because this is going to be a year-long celebration and cringe-fest—so let’s look at how rents have changed over the past 20 years.

SURPRISE! They’re higher.

(That was a joke. I know you’re not surprised.)

Slate pulled data from the U.S. Census Bureau to show that the median asking rent has gone up by one hundred percent since 1995, one year before Rent premiered on Broadway.

Back then, we were paying roughly $425 per month in real dollars, and $695 in adjusted-for-inflation dollars. And that’s the median rate, which means some of us were paying much less (and some of us were paying more, but I’m going to assume they had really nice apartments).

One more reason why a lot of us are feeling really embarrassed for siding with Mark and Roger when we were teenagers. You guys. Come on. We would literally murder a dog to get a $695-a-month apartment.

(We wouldn’t do that, though. Because we are older now, and don’t want to ever mention that we once sang along to a peppy song that glorified dog murder. La vie boheme, indeed.)

Despite Rent’s attempt to make us aware that paying rent is the worst and everyone should just be able to squat in apartments or something, rents are still rising—to the point where we now have the highest rent in 20 years. (Happy anniversary!) To quote Slate:

The median asking rent for vacant units hit $850 in the fourth quarter [2015], up from $799 a year earlier.

That’s a 6.38 percent increase between fourth quarter 2014 and fourth quarter 2015. How much did wages increase between 2014 and 2015? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Wages and salaries (which make up about 70 percent of compensation costs) increased 0.6 percent, and benefits (which make up the remaining 30 percent of compensation) increased 0.7 percent.

Even people who worked really hard (as opposed to, say, Mark and Roger—seriously, Roger, you wrote one song in the time it took Alexander Hamilton to write 51 Federalist Papers, and I can’t even remember how the tune goes) probably didn’t get enough of a boost to cover their rent increase. From CNN Money:

The very best employees can expect an average raise of 4.6% [in 2015] versus just 2.6% for average players. And workers with below-average ratings? They’ll see a pay bump of less than 1%.

It sure makes you wish someone was offering you free rent in exchange for a cushy new media job right about now.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.