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The Exact Moment Big Cities Got Too Expensive for Millennials

It wasn't so long ago that cheap rentals in big cities weren't a fantasy
Apartment buildings in Brooklyn, New York.

Apartment buildings in Brooklyn, New York.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The rent has been "too damn high" in New York for so long that today's young professionals might assume it was always that way. Yet it wasn't until the second quarter of 2004 that the median rent exceeded 30 percent of the median household income for young workers, the threshold at which housing experts say rent is no longer affordable, according to an analysis conducted by Zillow.

Rents are stretching millennial budgets throughout the U.S. Nationally, the typical worker from 22 to 34 years old paid 30 percent of income for rent in the first quarter of 2015, up from 23 percent in 1979, when the analysis begins.   In those places, rental unaffordability is a distinct obstacle for people trying to carve out lives and careers, particularly in the nine major cities shown in the chart below, where more than half of households rent.