Rent prices in Lawrence rose more than two times faster than the national average in 2017, fastest growing in the state, new report finds

According to one new report, it is getting significantly more expensive to live in Lawrence. (Maybe it is the Kleenex bill for a household that has the misfortune of being both a Jayhawk and Chiefs football fan.) Actually, it is something more basic: rent.

Lawrence in 2017 had the fastest rising rent rates in all of Kansas and also saw a spike much higher than the national average. According to the company, Lawrence saw average per month rent rates increase by 5.7 percent in 2017. Of the 12 cities in Kansas that tracks, Lawrence had the highest growth rate by far. It also was more than two times higher than the national average, which saw rents rise by 2.7 percent.

Lawrence residents now should expect to pay an average of $700 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $920 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. (Those are median averages, if you are scoring along at home.) While the growth rate is interesting, so too are the actual dollar figures. It looks like Lawrence is now on the western edge of the Kansas City market when it comes to rent rates. Lawrence is still a bit cheaper than all the Johnson County communities, but is now quite a bit more expensive than everybody else in the state. The one that stood out is the reported difference between Lawrence and Manhattan. The median rent rate for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $560, or $140 a month cheaper than in Lawrence. A two-bedroom in Manhattan is listed at $740. That is much the same situation in Columbia, Mo., home to the University of Missouri. Averages there are $570 for a one-bedroom and $720 for a two-bedroom.

For whatever reason, the college rental markets in those two communities look different from Lawrence’s. One key difference is both Manhattan and Columbia are father away from Kansas City. I’ve been hearing landlords in Lawrence say for quite some time that nonstudents are having a much greater impact on the rental market. There’s a sizable number of young professionals who are renting in Lawrence but working in Kansas City — more than there are in Manhattan or Columbia.

That may still be a good deal, especially if gas prices remain somewhat low. Median rents for a two-bedroom Lawrence apartment are still about $200 to $250 less per month than in many of the Johnson County communities. Although, Kansas City residents do have the cost-savings of never having to buy ice melt. The Chiefs consistently produce a January meltdown. (But really, Chiefs fans? You melt down over a playoff loss? Save it for something important, like a home basketball loss.)

While Lawrence rents may be a good deal for people making Kansas City wages, for the rest of us the story may be a bit different. Here’s one way to look at it: The median household income in Lawrence is $47,938, according to the Census Bureau’s five-year average. That means an average household living in an average two-bedroom apartment is paying 23 percent of its gross income on housing costs. In both Manhattan and Columbia, the percentage is 19 percent. Compared with two other Midwestern university communities, it appears there is about a 4 percent premium to live in Lawrence.

One thing worth noting is that both Manhattan and Columbia now have average household incomes that are less than Lawrence’s. Manhattan is at about $45,900 and Columbia is at about $45,200. So, Lawrence is now higher than two communities, but if you want to make rent, it appears that it needs to be.

The folks at use a combination of rent rates gathered by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the thousands of rent rates advertised on its website. Specifically, the company looks at apartments that have been listed for rent at least twice in the time period being studied, which gives a pretty good idea of how much prices have changed. While the numbers are probably still skewed some, it does give you a good idea of differences in rent rates among communities. Here’s a look at how Lawrence stacks up compared with the other cities in Kansas, with rent rates for two-bedroom apartments, and how much median rent rates have change from the same period a year ago.

• Lawrence: $920, up 5.7 percent

• Overland Park: $1,170, up 4 percent

• Olathe: $1,130, up 3.3 percent

• Lenexa: $1,140, up 0.7 percent

• Shawnee: $1,000, up 0.3 percent

• Gardner: $1,070, up 3.1 percent

• Junction City: $770, down 2.0 percent

• Kansas City, KS: $880, up 0.4 percent

• Leawood: $1,380, down 4.2 percent

• Manhattan: $740, down 2.2 percent

• Topeka: $760, down 2.1 percent

• Wichita: $740, up 1.1 percent

I also pulled a few numbers for other college cities in middle America, although some places like Ames, Iowa, and Stillwater, Okla., weren’t included in the report:

• Columbia, Mo.: $720, down 0.9 percent

• Norman, Okla.: $810, down 0.1 percent

• Iowa City: $1,100, up 0.8 percent

• Waco, Texas: $840, up 6.6 percent

• Lincoln, Neb.: $850, up 1.2 percent

• Fayetteville, Ark.: $740, up 1.3 percent

• Bloomington, Ind.: $930, up 1.2 percent

• Boulder, Colo: $1,400, up 3.7 percent

• Fort Collins, Colo.: $1,130, up 2.9 percent

And finally, also looks at statewide averages. Lawrence certainly is more expensive than the average Kansas market. But perhaps surprising to some is that Kansas has the second highest median rent rate of any of the states in our region and also had the second highest growth growth rate in 2017.

Kansas: $840 per month, up 1.6 percent

Iowa: $770 per month, up 0.9 percent

Colorado: $1,270, up 2.7 percent

Missouri: $840, no change

Nebraska: $820, up 1.1 percent

Oklahoma: $760, down 0.2 percent