Tag Archives: rent

analysis: rent

On Rent in Camberville

I found it a little hard to write about rent in Camberville (mostly Somerville) due to the age of the data I found readily available. Additionally, it’s a heated issue. I–and my friends–choose to live here. We pick convenience over cost. Housing is the subject on which we use our energies reserved for being upset, angry, and frustrated over things we feel we can’t do anything about.

That being said, rent here really sucks.

Boston rent is the third most expensive in the US, according to CBS. It is beaten by New York and San Francisco. The majority of residents are renters. We don’t have rent control. The average rent for an average household is over $2,000.

Renters and Owners

The majority of Cambervillans are renters. Renter occupied homes have fewer people, on average, than owner occupied homes. I joke that this is because people are misreporting how many residents a given location has, considering how many people over the age of twenty-one I know who have actual roommates.

Somerville Households (2010 Census Data from American FactFinder)

Owner Occupied Renter Occupied Totals
Housing Units 10,395 21,710 32,105
Population 24,780 48,705 73,485

Average Household Size



Cambridge Households (2010 Census Data from American FactFinder)

Owner Occupied Renter Occupied Totals
Housing Units 15,235 28,797 44,032
Population 31,880 56,180 88,060
Average Household Size 2.09 1.95


These numbers come from Wikipedia, where there is a lot of ambiguity on the data. I should probably update it, assuming census.gov’s information is more correct. I have both. Unlabeled data is from Wikipedia. All income is gross, except when noted otherwise.

Camberville Income

Somerville Cambridge
Household $46,315 $47,979
Household (2010, census.gov) $64,603 $72,225
Estimated MA Take-Home (2010, census.gov) $45,114 $49,881
Family $51,243 $59,423
Men $36,333 $43,825
Women $31,418 38,489
Per Capita $23,628 21,156
Per Capita (2010, census.gov) $33,352 $48,509

I have been told that rent “should be 30% of your [take home] income.” This seems positively insane to me. That is ridiculously high. But, whatever, someone thinks it’s a good idea. Probably someone who owns land that they rent.

By these recommendations, a Somerville household should be paying $19,381/year, or $1,615.08/month. A Cambridge household ought to be paying $21,667.5/year, or $1,805.63/month. For argument’s sake, a Somerville household is 2.25 people, and a Cambridge one 2. This works out to a Somervillian paying $718/month and a Cantabridgian paying $903/month.


I apologize for my rent numbers. They are from Zillow’s positively magnificent rent data. I apologize because they are calculated from September 2014, as opposed to whenever the census was actually taken in 2010. Here are some new assumptions:

  1. Inflation since 2010 has been 9.2%
  2. Estimated Somerville household income is now: $70,521
  3. Estimated Somerville take-home income is now: $49,246
  4. Estimated Cambridge household income is now: $78,841
  5. Estimated Cambridge take-home income is now: $54,450
  6. A typical household is 2 people.
  7. Studio apartments are occupied by a single person earning as much as a household, but ought to cost less than a one-bedroom.
  8. One-bedroom apartments are occupied by 1.5 people earning as much as a single household.
  9. Three-bedroom apartments shall be calculated as 1.5 households, and four-bedroom apartments as 2 households. (Note, many people share their homes with either roommates, housemates, partners, or children. In the case of partners (or children), this could be at a greater cost.)

Median Rental Costs as of September 2014 (Zillow.com)

Somerville (estimated) Somerville (actual) Cambridge (estimated) Cambridge (actual)
All homes $2,300 $2,550
Studio <$1,231 $1,500 <$1,361 $2,140
One-bedroom $1,231 $1,760 $1,361 $2,200
Two-bedroom $1,231 $2,200 $1,361 $2,700
Three-bedroom $1,846 $2,600 $2,041 $3,300
Four-bedroom $2,462 $3,200 $2,722 $4,200

There are some problems with my estimates. I mean, lots of problems. One obvious issue is that rent is usually less per room the more rooms there are in the house.


Tufts has 5,232 undergrads (~37% off campus) and 5,651 graduate students. MIT has 4,528 undergrads (~25% live off campus) and 6,773 graduate students. Harvard [College] has 6,722 undergrads (~3% off campus) and 3,871 graduate students.


I don’t know a lot about the actual makeup of Camberville in a “by the numbers” way. Rents in some areas are cheaper than others–by a lot. Both cities have significant populations of poor people (in each city, >10% of the population lives below the poverty line). A number of my friends are hackers, engineers, developers, etc. Glassdoor tells me that the Boston Metro average developer earns $85k/year. I know some freshman engineers who had offers for $90k+benefits. I have friends who earn $500/week teaching children. Graduate student/post-doc stipends in the area range from $8k-35k/year. Massachusetts minimum wage is $8/hour.

Possibly Interesting Things, Some of Which Inspired Me

Something Wrong With Literally Everything In Apartment.” The Onion. March 19, 2011.

Parker, Brock. “Report Warns of Rent Hikes Along Green Line Route in Somerville.” Boston.com. February 12, 2014.

Conti, Katheleen. “In Suburbs, Rents Soar As Vacancy Rates Plummet.” Boston Globe. April 24, 2014.

Kooker, Naomi. “Skyrocketing Rent Has Tenants Searching Outside the City.” Boston Globe. August 17, 2014.


Thanks to Patrick Engelman for pointing out it’s 30% of take home pay, not gross. This also led to me realizing a mistake I made in calculating expected rents. I apologize.

A note added about roommates/sharing homes with partners.

I’d like to acknowledge all my awesome statistician and economist friends who read this and gave useful feedback–leading to the edits.