Given how bad the economy has been over the past few years, many of us have been looking for more affordable places to live. While affordable rent isn’t the only thing to consider when looking to relocate, it can be an important factor for those working in minimum wage jobs – especially since the minimum wage varies little from Los Angeles to, say, St. Louis. It can be hard to get by in higher priced markets like New York City or L.A., so it’s no wonder some folks decide to leave the bigger, more expensive cities behind.
But even if you do need to consider saving on rent, it doesn’t mean you have to leave all culture and activities behind for a stranded suburb with nothing to see or do. We can prove it: These rankings look the 50 largest cities in the country and their apartment rental rates – and not all of the cheapest are in the Midwest! There are even a few big cities here that allow you to leave winter behind for good without stretching your monthly rental budget.
Based on CBRE’s last quarterly report in 2013 regarding multi-family rental prices, we’ve collated information on 10 of the cheapest big U.S. cities for apartment renters. Prices represent the average rent per month per unit in the city; it’s an average collated from rent on everything from a studio and one-bedroom to much larger units.
10. Cleveland, OH – Average Rent Per Unit: $793
Nicknames for Cleveland include “Forest City,” C-Town” and the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World.” This city of approximately 396,000 souls is full of people who take pride in their hometown. They can boast an active tailgating culture, one of the best commutes in the country, and affordable living too. Some say that C-Town has as many amenities as the more expensive cities in this great country of ours, and that just might be true. With some of the lowest rental prices in the country, it’s easy to see why many people do decide to call Cleveland home.
9. St. Louis, MO – Average Rent Per Unit: $779
St. Louis has gotten some flak in recent years for a purported lack of culture. However, locals know this isn’t a fair representation. The barbecue culture is great and it’s a fun, vibrant city for a low cost of living. There are sights such as The City Museum, which can be described as an art museum full of recycled sculptures that you can climb on (oh, and slides. Lots of slides!). The reason for the low rent has a lot to do with location (being nowhere near a nice, beachy location), the weather (it can be 80 in the morning and you can get 8 inches of snow that night), and the crime rate (it is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the country, though city officials have argued that the research methodology is flawed). Still, when you compare it to many other large cities around the country, the rent is significantly lower, making the city appear a little more appealing to those who are strapped for cash.
8. Kansas City, MO – Average Rent Per Unit: $778
St. Louis isn’t the only Missouri city to make this list. Many people don’t realize that Kansas City is actually the bigger of the two, and it’s also radically different to its eastern Missouri counterpart. K.C. is an area of more than two million people spanning the Missouri-Kansas border. Known for it’s Kansas City style BBQ and being a city full of culture, art and fountains, the city is a great place to live for those looking for a cheaper lifestyle than many other big cities. But it’s in the Midwest, it gets cold and has less varied industries than many of the more popular U.S. cities and all of these factors contribute to a lower average rent. But being home to over 200 fountains, this “city of fountains” is still a place many people like to call home.
7. Fort Worth, TX – Average Rent Per Unit: $777
Fort Worth is located in North Central Texas and acts as a cultural gateway to the American West. Texas’ reputation precedes it so many people might hold some preconceived notions about the city, but you might be surprised to find out that Fort Worth is the home of several art museums, including the Kimbell Art Museum, which is considered one of the best art collections in Texas. There’s also the Amon Carter Museum which is considered one of the largest collections of American art in the entire world. The city also boasts several large universities including Texas A&M University School of Law. There are job opportunities with companies like Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and American Airlines – among others – making Fort Worth a city one could consider for a potentially lucrative move.
6. Cincinnati, OH – Average Rent Per Unit: $775
Cincinnati is the second Ohio city to show up on this list, and it’s the 25th largest city in the United States. Located between the border of Kentucky and Ohio, where the Ohio River meets the Licking River, it has a bad rap amongst many in the south. But what those cynics might not know is that Cincinnati is considered the first purely American city, meaning it was the first major city founded after the American Revolution and it was developed without much European immigration or influence. For those who think this city doesn’t have much to offer in the way of culture, consider this: Cincinnati is known for its historic architecture including Over-The-Rhine, a neighborhood north of downtown, which boasts the world’s largest collection of Italianate architecture. It even rivals neighborhoods in New York City in size and scope but unlike New York City, it’s actually an affordable place to live for those on minimum wage.
5. Phoenix, AZ – Average Rent Per Unit: $774
Phoenix is considered a subtropical desert, which means that it gets intensely hot during the summer months. But for those who can handle the heat (or actually like it), the city can be a great place to live. With activities to rival many large cities, such as Broadway and off-Broadway type productions, plus the benefits of an area that’s rife with hiking and biking opportunities, Phoenix can be a great place to live. And if you’re looking for somewhere to escape harsh winters, but can’t afford the rent in L.A., Phoenix might just be the place for you.
4. Columbus, OH – Average Rent Per Unit: $766
And for the third Ohio city on the list, we present you with– Columbus. Columbus is the most populous city in Ohio, In 2012, Business Week ranked Columbus as one of the best cities in America, and in 2013, Forbes gave Columbus an A rating as one of the top cities for business in the U.S. It is home to several Fortune 500 companies including Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, American Electric Power and L Brands, Forbes also listed it as one of the top 10 cities to relocate to in America. And with rental prices as low as this it’s easy to see the appeal.
3. Memphis, TN – Average Rent Per Unit $746
Memphis is known for Beale Street, which is a national historical landmark as well as just an all-around cool place to hang out. Memphis is a fun, lively city, one that’s known for pioneering several music genres including Memphis Soul, Memphis Blues, gospel, rock n’ roll and more. There are music festivals throughout the year so for music fans, this could be a great city to live. Not only is it a fun city, Memphis is also home to three Fortune 500 companies, FedEx, AutoZone, and International Paper. The central location of the city has made it an ideal location for the transportation and shipping industries.
2. Las Vegas, NV – Average Rent Per Unit $737
Las Vegas is the city everyone wants to visit, but the city few people actually want to live in. One of the biggest vacation destinations in the United States, and a city most of us know very well, it’s still one that’s fairly affordable for those who want to settle there. There are likely many reasons for this: It’s crowded and it’s very hot; it’s also reputed to be overrun by drunken revellers which can be understandably off putting for families. But actually, for some, it can make a perfect place to call home. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind the heat, and you love an active nightlife with plenty of things to do, Las Vegas could be the place for you, and it sure beats the cost of living in Miami or Los Angeles. As long as you don’t lose what you’re saving on rent in the casinos, of course.
1. Indianapolis – Average Rent Per Unit $726
Indianapolis is home to the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400, NHRA U.S. Nationals, and now it’s also the cheapest big city for renters in the United States. Forbes ranked Indianapolis as having one of the best downtowns in the U.S, making note of the 200 retail shops, the 300 restaurants and food options, movie theaters, sports venues, museums, art galleries and parks. And considering that many of Indiana’s largest companies are headquartered in Indianapolis, there may just be job opportunities for enterprising individuals too. Companies with a home in the city include Eli Lilly and Company, Sallie Mae, Rolls-Royce and General Motors. If you work in related industries, Indianapolis could be a great home for you, and an affordable one too.
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