Can I Afford to Rent?

To find out if you can afford to rent, get a handle on your finances. Get paper and pencil and chart a budget. Here is a sample budget template:

In order to estimate the cost of rent, you need to research your housing options. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Create a list of your housing wants and needs.

    Write down what you need in the way of housing and what you dream about having. Use this list when you're looking at your housing options. Your desires and needs will change over time so keep this list and review and update as necessary.

    In addition, work with a mentor and talk about how the following situations might play out.

    • Relationships. Who do you want to live with - alone; with a partner, family, kin, or children; with friends as roommates? Do you have any positive lifelong connections established, and if so, do you want to live with any of them? Will you feel isolated if you live on your own? Is being able to have a pet important to you?
    • Age and gender. Would you prefer to live in a community of young adults-for example, a young adult transitional living complex or a mixed-age environment? How would you do in a subsidized high-rise apartment building with residents who are primarily senior citizens? If you're going to live in a dorm, would you prefer it to be same-sex or coed?
    • Developmental level. Are you capable of living on your own? Do you have the skills to do so or do you need support to live with the level of independence you would like-for example, a protective payee to manage finances or someone to help with medications, meals, or housekeeping? Are those supports available?
    • Life skills knowledge and ability. Do you know what it takes to get and keep housing? Do you have the skills?
    • Education and career goals. Do you have education or career plans that affect your choices, such as being eligible for college dorms or military housing, or needing daytime quiet due to work on a night shift?
    • Special status. Would you be eligible for and benefit from housing for those with special needs, such as programs for felons, substance abusers, those with mental health issues or other disabilities, or young parents?
    • Cultural and socioeconomic factors. Do you want to live among others with whom you identify based on ethnicity, culture, or sexual orientation? Would you like, for example, to return to a tribal reservation or to live in an ethnic or gay-friendly community? Are you likely to encounter discrimination with your choice of living situation? If so, do you understand the issues and have the skills necessary to live successfully in that community?
    • Resources available to pay for housing and associated costs. What eligibility do you have for various forms of assistance? Do you have a source of income? A "nest egg" or resources to turn to for emergencies?
    • Location. Do you intend to live in the same general area or are you planning to leave-say to the "big city"? What are your concerns about safety, proximity to school, work, child care, etc.?
    • Transportation. Do you have a way to get from housing to school, work, and so on? Can you afford the transportation you need? Do you need a parking space?
  2. Explore a range of housing possibilities.

    Identify the kinds of housing available in the community, such as apartments, rooms for rent, houses, mobile homes, public or low-income housing, and dormitories if you're attending school.
  3. Explore housing finances.

    You will need to figure out the total cost of getting, setting up, and maintaining a household. You will need to calculate the income you will have, budget how it will be spent, and explore how you can supplement your income.
    • Assess your income. Figure out how much money you will make so you'll know how much you can spend on housing.
    • Assess your total expenses. Include the cost of housing and the cost of moving in (the move itself, the things you need to move in, deposit, first and last month's rent, etc.)
    • Explore how you can supplement your income. Work with an Independent Living Coordinator to determine your eligibility for funds.

Resources - resource for affordable housing opportunities in Washington State.

Casey Family Programs, It's My Life: Housing - detailed information on helping young people prepare to find, get and keep housing, Rentals - provides information and decision support tools for people looking for home and real estate-related information. Read "How Much Rent is Too Much Rent" and "Budgeting for Your First Apartment" among other very good articles about renting. In Rentals tab, click Finance and Budgeting. - a free service that helps you find the perfect apartment. - provides a free search tool with detailed rental listings, Apartments - information on apartment living geared towards young adults.

US Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - Look for information on how to calculate the affordability of rent, access special services and programs, figure out what you need for an apartment, look for an apartment or a house, and get ready to move. Sign up for HUD programs right away - there are usually long waiting lists.

Washington Information Network 2-1-1 - Search an online directory of health and human service programs to find resources like food banks (food pantries), emergency shelters, transportation, health clinics, rent or utilities assistance, legal help, and many more.

Information on this page was provided by Casey Family Programs.