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Can you really afford to rent an apartment on your own in Minneapolis?

Minneapolis gets high marks for single renters, in spite of everything you might have heard.

Minneapolis gets high marks for single renters, in spite of everything you might have heard. Glenn Stubbe, Star Tribune

If you dream of not sharing a bathroom and still having money to buy food after rent is due, Minneapolis might just be the city for you.

So says a recent rundown of cities where renters can afford to live alone, which places Minneapolis at No. 3, sandwiched by the Nebraska cities of Lincoln and Omaha.

The SmartAsset list is based on how much you have to pay on average to rent in each city, what percent of the housing stock has fewer than two bedrooms, cost of living, and other data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Up at the top you’ll find Cincinnati, where you can get some weird spaghetti chili and a studio or a one-bedroom for under $600.

Minneapolis apparently got the No. 3 slot for its low unemployment rate (about 3 percent) and its robust supply of one-bedroom units. Over a third of our housing stock has fewer than two bedrooms – a total that beats every other city in the top 10.

That all sounds pretty good until you remember every headline you’ve seen about Minneapolis for about a year now. The city’s in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. In the last decade, the Twin Cities’ population grew 8 percent (3.1 million people) while housing only grew 5.4 percent.

Depending on where you are in the metro, vacancy is somewhere between 2 and 4 percent. As a point of reference, rental-wise, between 7 and 8 percent is considered “healthy.” However many one-bedrooms and studios we have in our area, it’s clearly not enough.

To make matters worse, all that demand is making prices rise—sometimes up to three times faster than inflation. The Census Bureau says that the average one-bedroom in the city costs nearly $800 per month. The list justifies Minneapolis’ rank by pointing out that the average full-time worker in the area earns nearly $49,000 a year, “somewhat balanc[ing]” these high rents.

But that doesn’t change the fact that 20 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty level, and they need places to live, too. In fact, the Minnesota Housing Partnership estimates that 23 percent of Twin Cities renters are spending half their paycheck each month just to keep a roof over their heads.

Unfortunately, according to the rankings, none of Minnesota’s other major cities are doing any better. You’ll find St. Paul down at No. 11, with fewer single-dweller units (25 percent of the housing stock), similar costs (nearly $750 average monthly rent), and a slightly worse unemployment rate (a little over 3 percent).

The good news is that we are not struggling as much as, say, Denver, where rent is about $980 a month, or San Francisco, sitting pretty at $1,444.

At least, not yet. A recent report from the Family Housing Fund speculates that the priciness of housing in the Twin Cities could soon rival that of Denver or Seattle.