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Pay Less and Enjoy More: 15 Cities With Healthy Job Markets and Affordable Rents

most affordable places to live in the us

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As a renter, your housing costs can change at the whim of your landlord or because of local market forces. In major cities and hot markets, you may quickly find that the place you rented three years ago for $1,400 is now closer to $2,000 – and no longer in your budget. In a 2017 report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the cost of rent increased by 6.1% in 2016, which means that many Americans are in a precarious position of spending too much of their income on housing.

The good news is, you do have other options. While cities like New York and San Francisco lead the way on cost-of-renting increases, there are a host of other cities, big and small, that offer both affordable rents and plenty of jobs. Using data compiled from the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we found cities of many sizes that have it all: affordable rent, a growing population, and healthy industry demonstrated by a low unemployment rate.

If you’re ready to take back control of your housing costs, consider one of these fifteen cities that will offer you a more comfortable, and sustainable, cost of living. 

Read more: Should I Rent or Buy a House?

1. Orlando, Florida

Census 2010 Population: 238,300

Median Rent: $1,040

Median Household Income: $44,007

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 28%

Number of Companies: 37,544

Unemployment Rate: 3.4%

Save money
Enjoy the sun and the lifestyle with Orlando’s opportunities.

Orlando offers a lot if you are interested in working for a major company and enjoy year-round sunshine. Tourism is a huge industry in Orlando due to theme parks, but downtown Orlando is home to a growing number of businesses and has seen a revival in recent years. With multiple colleges nearby, and rental options available from downtown lofts to single-family homes, Orlando is a great opportunity for people of all ages, and families of all sizes.

2. Atlanta, Georgia

Census 2010 Population: 420,003

Median Rent: $998

Median Household Income: $49,398

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 24%

Number of Companies: 64,593

Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

Atlanta balances southern charm and an urban attitude and has been one of the fastest growing cities in America. Filmmakers and media companies call Atlanta home, as do healthcare, insurance, and other white-collar industries. With one of the busiest airports in the world, Atlanta is also a hub for the aeronautics industry.

3. Dallas, Texas

Census 2010 Population: 1,197,816

Median Rent: $888

Median Household Income: $45,215

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 23.5%

Number of Companies: 142,658

Unemployment Rate: 3.7%

No matter how you feel about cowboy hats, Dallas is an urban center that offers everything from top restaurants to an arts scene looking to rival that of the coasts’. You’ll get good weather, and most importantly, affordable rents allowing you to save money for your future.

4. Charlotte, North Carolina

Census 2010 Population: 731,424

Median Rent: $966

Median Household Income: $55,599

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 21%

Number of Companies: 81,973

Unemployment Rate: 4.3%

Save money
Enjoy downtown Charlotte’s parks and city feel without paying too much rent.

Charlotte has seen a big population rise in recent years, in part because it is an affordable place to live, with a pleasant climate and plenty of job opportunities. You’re also only hours away from vacation and commercial hubs on the east coast.

5. Phoenix, Arizona

Census 2010 Population: 1,445,632

Median Rent: $914

Median Household Income: $49,328

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 22%

Number of Companies: 124,033

Unemployment Rate: 4.4%

If saving money is one of your primary concerns, living in Phoenix can help you find affordable rents – but you’ll also find things like groceries are cheaper there too. Weather is comfortable all year long, although summers can be hot.

6. Cincinnati, Ohio

Census 2010 Population: 296,943

Median Rent: $662

Median Household Income: $34,629

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 23%

Number of Companies: 26,855

Unemployment Rate: 4%

Cincinnati is affordable both for renters and for some-day home buyers. It also balances a big-city feel with open community initiatives related to the arts and other cultural institutions.

7. San Antonio, Texas

Census 2010 Population: 1,327,407

Median Rent: $882

Median Household Income: $48,183

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 22%

Number of Companies: 117,546

Unemployment Rate: 3.4%

Save money
San Antonio has a long history to discover.

San Antonio is one of the largest cities in the country, but its rent remains lower than comparable areas. Significant industries in the area range from health care to finance and San Antonio is also a hub for arts communities, offering you both affordable rent and plenty of access to culture.

8. Nashville, Tennessee

Census 2010 Population: 601,222

Median Rent: $902

Median Household Income: $49,891

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 21.6%

Number of Companies: 68,228

Unemployment Rate: 2.7%

Nashville has had incredible job growth in recent years, as evidenced by a low unemployment rate. Home to Vanderbilt University and major healthcare companies – not to mention an around-the-clock music scene – residents don’t have to pony up nearly as much of their income as you might think.

9. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Census 2010 Population: 253,691

Median Rent: $681

Median Household Income: $44,449

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 16%

Number of Companies: 20,502

Unemployment Rate: 3.3%

For most people, the ideal ratio of how much you pay in rent to how much you make each month will be around 30%, which makes Fort Wayne’s 16% very attractive to those who wish to save money while still enjoying a fulfilling life.

10. Columbus, Ohio

Census 2010 Population: 787,033

Median Rent: $856

Median Household Income: $47,156

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 22%

Number of Companies: 67,994

Unemployment Rate: 3.8%

Save money
Mix culture, sports, jobs, and affordability and you have Columbus.

Living in Ohio’s capital city has its perks, including an affordable balance between rent and income and a healthy job market. Major industries include healthcare, finance, and insurance. And of course, Ohio State University offers a gorgeous campus and research opportunities – and did they mention football?

11. Lubbock, Texas

Census 2010 Population: 229,573

Median Rent: $854

Median Household Income: $45,499

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 22.5%

Number of Companies: 20,334

Unemployment Rate: 3.1%

Lubbock is home to Texas Tech, some of the country’s best barbecue, and rock legend Buddy Holly. Different areas of the city offer different vibes, and you’re only a drive away from New Mexico’s national parks.

12. Las Vegas, Nevada

Census 2010 Population: 583,756

Median Rent: $985

Median Household Income: $50,882

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 23%

Number of Companies: 55,856

Unemployment Rate: 5.2%

If you want sunshine and reasonable rent, Las Vegas can bring excitement into your everyday. The unemployment rate is a bit higher than other cities on the list, but because Vegas offers so many options for employment, including seasonal work, this number can be hard to nail down.

13. Lincoln, Nebraska

Census 2010 Population: 258,379

Median Rent: $750

Median Household Income: $51,126

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 17.6%

Number of Companies: 22,687

Unemployment Rate: 2.6%

Save money
Enjoy life with Lincoln’s easy lifestyle.

In Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska, don’t expect to find cornfields – expect to find a variety of restaurants, cultural organizations, and entertainment choices. And did we mention the incredibly low rents and money-saving opportunities you’ll find?

14. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Census 2010 Population: 579,999

Median Rent: $793

Median Household Income: $50,070

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 19%

Number of Companies: 58,815

Unemployment Rate: 3.6%

Rent is low in Oklahoma City, but so are home prices, making it an attractive place to grow with a family. With a median household income higher than other comparable areas, but rents significantly lower, you’ll be spending about as little of your income on housing as possible.

15. Omaha, Nebraska

Census 2010 Population: 408,958

Median Rent: $819

Median Household Income: $50,827

Rent-to-Income Ratio: 19%

Number of Companies: 37,664

Unemployment Rate: 3.1%

You’ll find affordable rents in Omaha, with jobs that pay better than the national average. Omaha is also home for college students and many other young people, so there’s no shortage of entertainment options.

If your goal is to save money, it might be time to consider relocating to one of these cities. You won’t sacrifice quality of life, but you will have access to growing job markets, higher-than-average pay, and rents that will allow you to enjoy life without sacrificing your income to housing


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