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Cities with the Most and the Least Apartment Space: How Much Square Footage per Person Can You Get?

At a time when most of us are required to stay at home, the idea of space takes on a whole new meaning. In fact, we’re so used to spending a lot of time outside of our homes that we don’t fully appreciate how nice it is to have some much-needed personal space, especially when we live with others, whether they’re roommates or family. But now, with isolation being the new norm, living and working in the same space can seem like a struggle – particularly for the 57 million Americans living in apartments. So how many square feet per person can you get in the top U.S. cities?

Based on Yardi Matrix and Census data, we analyzed the top 100 largest cities in the nation, to see how they do in terms of apartment space per person. In order to calculate this, we divided the average apartment size by the average number of persons living in rentals in each city. According to our research, the average space a renter enjoys at home ranges from the tiniest in Santa Ana, CA, with less than 300 sq. ft., to more than twice as much in Louisville, KY, with over 700 sq. ft. Nationwide, the average apartment space per resident is 526 sq. ft.

Square Feet per Person

The most packed apartments with the smallest square footage per person are found in crowded cities

Those living in some of the most crowded cities in the country are also having to deal with a very limited apartment space. For instance, Santa Ana, in Orange County, CA has the highest number of people living under the same roof – 2.9. Renters here are living in some of the smallest spaces, having to rely on an average of 292 square feet per person. The city is the only one to have an average square footage per person of less than 300. It’s not that apartments in Santa Ana are the smallest in the nation, but larger households impact the amount of space that each person gets.

Fremont, CA, near San Francisco, also has a high average number of people per apartment – 2.6 and only 318 square feet per person. While the general consensus is that the average person would need between 100 to 400 square feet in order to lead a happy and comfortable life, the truth is that during these times when people are confined to their homes, even those living in larger apartments may feel cooped up.

Top 10 cities with the least apartment space per person

RankCityStateSpace per Person
1Santa AnaCA292 sq. ft.
2FremontCA318 sq. ft.
3QueensNY329 sq. ft.
4Chula VistaCA340 sq. ft.
5BrooklynNY351 sq. ft.
6AnaheimCA353 sq. ft.
7HialeahFL356 sq. ft.
8ManhattanNY393 sq. ft.
9El PasoTX397 sq. ft.
10Los AngelesCA412 sq. ft.

Top 10 cities with the most apartment space per person

RankCityStateSpace per Person
1LouisvilleKY731 sq. ft.
2WinstonNC723 sq. ft.
3OmahaNE689 sq. ft.
4Kansas CityMO685 sq. ft.
5GreensboroNC685 sq. ft.
6BoiseID678 sq. ft.
7AtlantaGA677 sq. ft.
8RichmondVA677 sq. ft.
9RaleighNC674 sq. ft.
10MemphisTN671 sq. ft.

Out of the top 10 cities with the least square footage per person, 5 are in California, with Fremont, Chula Vista (340 sq. ft. per person), Anaheim (353 sq. ft. per person) and Los Angeles (412 sq. ft. per person ) being the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 10th on the list, respectively.

The most crowded metropolitan area in the U.S., New York is also present in our top with some of the lowest average apartment sizes and largest number of persons living in the same household. Although many would expect to see Manhattan in the lead for smallest apartment space per person, Queens is actually the one with the most crammed apartments, with only 329 sq. ft. per person. It’s followed by Brooklyn, with 351 and Manhattan, with 393.

Conversely, renters are living large in Louisville, KY, boasting the largest apartment space per person, at 731 sq. ft. This is due to an average apartment size of 933 sq. ft. and an average of 1.3 persons per household, which means that renters here have a great deal of apartment space – well above the national average. Next in the top is Winston-Salem, NC, with a total living space of 723 sq. ft./person. Not far behind is Omaha, NE, third in our top, where each renter has an average of 689 sq. ft. to roam around.

To no one’s surprise, Texas boasts large apartments with above-average square footage per person. Renters in Lubbock have the largest amount of living space, at 567 square feet per person, followed by those in Plano (561), Corpus Christi (569), Dallas (538) and Fort Worth (538). The average square footage per person in 7 other Texan cities in our top is, however, below the national average, with El Paso scoring the lowest living space of 397 square feet per person, with a relatively large average household size of 2.

Cities with the smallest apartments surprisingly offer more space per person

However, small apartments don’t necessarily warrant the smallest living spaces per person and Newark, NJ is the best example. At an average size of 697 sq. ft., Newark apartments are relatively small compared to rentals in other cities analyzed, but the square footage per person comes to 416 sq. ft. The same goes for Seattle, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Chicago, cities with relatively small apartment sizes but a decent space per person, thanks to the low average number of people living in an apartment.

In contrast, renters living in Queens (329), Brooklyn (351) and Manhattan (393) are more squeezed in due to the combination of small apartment sizes and a high average number of people living in a household, resulting in less space per person.

Top 10 cities with smallest apartments

RankCityStateAvg. Apt. SizeAvg. No. of Persons/Apt.Space per Person
1NewarkNJ697 sq. ft.1.7416 sq. ft.
2SeattleWA702 sq. ft.1.5484 sq. ft.
3QueensNY724 sq. ft.2.2329 sq. ft.
4BrooklynNY737 sq. ft.2.1351 sq. ft.
5San FranciscoCA741 sq. ft.1.6462 sq. ft.
6WashingtonD.C.741 sq. ft.1.5488 sq. ft.
7ChicagoIL742 sq. ft.1.4517 sq. ft.
8ManhattanNY747 sq. ft.1.9393 sq. ft.
9ParadiseNV753 sq. ft.1.7447 sq. ft.
10PortlandOR766 sq. ft.1.4531 sq. ft.

On the other hand, Henderson, NV, has very large apartments at an average size of 992 sq. ft., but not the largest living area per person on our list. Apartments here offer an average square footage per person of 629, which is less than Atlanta, GA’s 677 sq. ft. and that is mostly due to the number of people per household, as Henderson’s (1.6) is higher than Atlanta’s (1.4).

Top 10 cities with largest apartments

RankCityStateAvg. Apt. SizeAvg. No. of Persons/Apt.Space per Person
1HendersonNV992 sq. ft.1.6629 sq. ft.
2ChesapeakeVA984 sq. ft.1.6606 sq. ft.
3AtlantaGA976 sq. ft.1.4677 sq. ft.
4Virginia BeachVA972 sq. ft.1.5663 sq. ft.
5GilbertAZ970 sq. ft.1.7566 sq. ft.
6JacksonvilleFL967 sq. ft.1.6621 sq. ft.
7North Las VegasNV959 sq. ft.1.8547 sq. ft.
8RaleighNC959 sq. ft.1.4674 sq. ft.
9OrlandoFL958 sq. ft.1.5621 sq. ft.
10Baton RougeLA945 sq. ft.1.6596 sq. ft.

How many square feet per person can you get in the top 100 cities analyzed?

Use the interactive table below to see what’s the average apartment size, the average number of persons per household, as well as the amount of living space per person.

* Dividing average apartment size by average household may give different results due to household average rounding

What the experts are saying about living in small spaces

As space is a major factor in our lives nowadays, having to adjust to the boundaries of our own apartments is difficult and even stressful at times. To help out with this, we contacted a few psychologists for some advice on how to deal with spending all our time indoors. Here’s what they shared:

Jenny Maenpaa, Founding Women’s Psychotherapist, Forward in Heels

“With many people being required to stay home for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a decrease in privacy, ability to find space for quiet reflection and sunlight, all of which affect mood. In addition, working from home and not being able to leave for social engagements creates difficulty differentiating between “work” and “leisure” times, which contributes to decreased sleep, productivity, and ability to process emotions – a recipe for increased anxiety.

As best one can, set boundaries within the home. This can look like creating a work schedule with your roommate(s) to alternate who uses the kitchen table or couch for work so that you’re not always in each other’s space, eating meals at regular intervals together with your laptops shut or phones off to focus on being social, or committing to a set “end time” for your work day to help you mentally transition into leisure time.”

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, Ph.D., NCC, LCMHCS, ACS, GCDF

“In the past, we may have had more ways to get out of our tiny space, but with COVID-19 resulting in many people working remotely and staying home, that sweet escape may cease to exist.

If we feel trapped and claustrophobic in our homes, then know that’s perfectly normal. There is scientific evidence backing up the reason that we may be feeling that way, and it all comes down to our need for privacy. When we feel that our space is being intruded upon, coupled with feeling out of control, then we are more apt to feel anxious and stressed, frustrated and depressed, all of which can create a perfect storm for psychological turmoil.

If you are living in a confined space, try to reclaim your sense of privacy and space by keeping yourself busy around the house, do some spring cleaning or find your green thumb. It would also help if you could create a relaxing environment or find a secret space where you could relish your privacy, it could either be your car, your balcony or even your bathroom. It’s also crucial that you keep the communication lines open – talk with your roommate, partner or friend and come up with respectful ways to help one another get through this difficult time.”

Julie L Pike, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Chapel Hill North Carolina

“One great way to improve mental health is to make sure we get plenty of exercise. Exercise stimulates endorphins, and of course improves our immune system, as well as increasing our sense of efficacy and emotional and physical strength.

The partnerships and families I see who are thriving despite living in small spaces are those who are able to focus on the big picture – the health and well-being of their family members, their gratitude for one another, and perhaps most of all, remembering that this is a temporary situation that will pass. Trying to live life from a perspective of “How do I value being treated and treating others?” rather than “Do I like that behavior or character trait?” is a helpful reframe.”

Methodology

RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States.

To compile this report, RentCafe’s research team analyzed the 100 largest U.S. cities using Yardi Matrix and Census data.

The average per apartment size was calculated based on data from Yardi Matrix, a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self-storage sectors. The data covers only large-scale apartment buildings of 50 units or more.

The average number of persons per household refers to renter households living in apartment buildings of 50 units or more, and is a weighted average calculated using data from detailed Census Tables. 

The average apartment size (in square feet) was divided by the average number of persons living in a renter household to calculate the average living space per person (in square feet).

For customized data and other requests, please contact us at media@rentcafe.com.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to RentCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.

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Florentina Sarac
Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 9-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email. Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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