US Rental Index The best cities for renters in the USA

US Rental Index The best cities for renters in the USA

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Huge numbers of people do not own their own homes, renting them from landlords instead. There are many reasons why people might rent rather than buy, the foremost being the huge cost of purchasing your own property. Aside from that, renting gives people the flexibility to move home on short notice, making it easier for them to apply for jobs outside of their area and live in different parts of the country.

However, some cities are better for renters than others. Huge, bustling cities like NYC are highly sought-after, though often come with hefty price tags. This can leave you with a shoebox apartment and little to no living space or room for basic furniture

Other factors you might consider include job opportunities in the area and the average local salary, or perhaps you’re more concerned about living in a greener city with plenty of access to parks? At the end of the day, we all have different priorities for what makes a location a great place to live.

With this in mind, we’ve put together the US Rental Index to help renters decide which US city is the perfect choice for their next move. 

The best US cities for renters

Looking at a wide range of different factors, we found the best cities in the US for renters to live in. Here are our top ten.

best US cities for renters


1. Washington, DC, Renting Score: 7.02

Washington is the best city in the country for renters to live, with an overall score of 7.02, and the only score above 7 that any city received. Washington is a very green place to live, with 21% of the city’s land area dedicated to parks and green spaces and as many as 98% of the city’s population live within a ten-minute walk of a park. 

Additionally, Washington boasts a high number of jobs for its size, with 58.57 job postings per 1,000 people, and renters are protected from sudden price hikes by rent control laws. However, living costs are higher than average and rent for a two-bedroom property averages at $3,658 per month, which is out of many people’s price range. 

The US cities where rent is lowest 

These are the most affordable major cities in the United States for renters, making them great choices for people who want to enjoy city life on a budget.

US cities where rent is lowest 

1. Tulsa, Average Monthly Rent (2-BR Property): $895

The city with the lowest average monthly rent in our study is Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a two-bedroom property will set you back approximately $895. This is the only city where the average rent is below $1,000, highlighting just how much of a bargain this is. El Paso and Tucson take second and third place, with average rents of $1,020 and $1,032 respectively.

The US cities with the most job postings per head

Job opportunities are a big reason why so many people choose to live in major cities rather than more rural areas. Here you can see which US cities have the most job listings on Indeed compared to their population sizes, indicating just how much work is available in each location.

US cities with the most job postings per head

1. Atlanta, Jobs per 1000 People: 111.90

The US city with the most jobs per head in our study is Atlanta, where there are 111.9 job listings for every 1000 residents. This is the only city where that figure exceeds 100, and one of only 3 where there are more than 60 jobs per 1,000 people. 

The huge availability of work in the city makes Atlanta a great place for people looking to find work or simply switch up their careers. Atlanta is followed by Tampa in second place and Miami in third, indicating that the Southeastern corner of the United States is a potential hotspot for job opportunities.

The US cities with the most green space

Green spaces can be hugely important for your mental and physical health, providing places for residents to exercise, socialize and unwind. Not only that, but having large areas of green space helps to combat air pollution and supports local wildlife.

US cities with the most green space

1. New Orleans, Green Space in the City: 23%

New Orleans has the highest proportion of its land area taken up by green spaces and parks, with as much as 23% of the city dedicated to them. This makes New Orleans a great place to live for people who love the outdoors while also providing great spaces to socialize and get away from the stress of everyday life.

The cities with the best access to green space

Being able to easily access local parks is an attractive element for many people when moving home. This is especially the case for young families, as it gives them an easy, free and healthy option for a family day out. Local parks can also make pet ownership a much more viable option, while also providing space for a range of outdoor activities from running and cycling to more social pursuits such as tennis, frisbee and yoga classes.

cities with the best access to green space

1. Boston & San Francisco Residents living within a 10 Minutes’ Walk from a Park: 100%

Boston and San Francisco are the two best cities for access to green spaces, with 100% of residents on both locations living within a short 10-minute walk from their nearest park. Having nature practically on your doorstep makes these two locations ideal for those who value having a quiet place to retreat to amidst the hustle and bustle of city life.

The US cities with the highest average salary

Many people relocate for work, seeking out the higher salaries that some cities are known for, but which US location has the highest average pay? Here we look at the top ten cities for average monthly salary. 

The US cities with the highest average salary

1. San Francisco, Average Monthly Salary after Tax: $8,073.06

The city with the highest average salary in the country is San Francisco, where you could expect to earn around $8,073 every month, that’s almost $97,000 per year! With average salaries this high, San Francisco can attract people from all over the country to work and live in the city, which may explain why the city has the third-highest rent in our study at $5,209 per month.

The cities with the lowest cost of living

Something that changes from city to city that many people overlook is the cost of living. This includes everything from your weekly spend on groceries to the cost of local transport, and it can vary substantially depending on where you live. Here are the 10 cities in our study with the lowest cost of living.

The cities with the lowest cost of living

1. El Paso, Cost of Living Index Score: 56.3

El Paso, Texas, is the most affordable place to live, with a Cost of Living Index Score of 56.3, which also happens to be the only score below 60 in our study. Sitting on the border of Mexico, El Paso is a vibrant town with a rich history and is well-known as the home of Tex-Mex cooking.

Major US cities with rent controls

Rent controls are sets of laws and regulations designed to protect renters by either setting rent levels or restricting their rate of increase. This prevents landlords from suddenly hiking up the rent on their properties without warning, which can leave tenants stuck in housing they can’t afford.

Most states in the country have laws prohibiting rent controls as they can be seen as restrictive to the housing market, putting strain on housing stock and limiting the freedom of landlords to charge prices that reflect market demand. However, there are several states where rent controls have been put in place, either state-wide or on a city-by-city basis.

Here’s a list of the major cities in our study where there are currently rent controls put in place to protect renters.

Major US cities with rent controls

Tips to make your rental property feel like home

One of the potential downsides of renting your home rather than buying it is that you can feel somewhat restricted in how much you can make the space your own. In many tenancies, you might be prohibited from making certain modifications, such as painting walls, changing blinds or curtains, or even putting nails in the wall. 

However, there are still many ways in which you can make a rental property feel like your own home.

Tips to make your rental property feel like home

Display the things you love

If you want to turn a bare apartment into a space that reflects your personality and interests, then the best thing to do is to keep your most-loved possessions on display. Not only will this add some character to your apartment, but it will also allow you to passively enjoy your possessions rather than keeping them locked away out of sight.

Furniture / Space

If you’re moving into a new apartment, then there’s a good chance that your old furniture isn’t going to be a perfect fit. Make sure to adapt your furniture to fit the space you have, not the space you had. Consider finding different ways of using areas that don’t fit your big old sofa or huge wardrobe. Depending on the dimensions, small spaces can be ideal for short couches, bookcases, floor-standing laps, or a skinny chest of drawers. 

Indoor plants

Another great way to bring a home alive is to include some indoor plants. Whether a simple cactus, a tray of live herbs, or an elegant bonsai tree, there’s an ideal plant for everyone. Some have uses in the kitchen and are great for enthusiastic cooks, others give off relaxing fragrances that help ease the mind, while some are simply aesthetically pleasing and make excellent ornamental pieces. 

Decorations

We all like to decorate our own living spaces, and this is no different when living in a rental property. However, you should take note of any restrictions stipulated by your landlord or tenancy agreement. Using rugs, throws and cushions to add color and texture to your apartment is a tried and tested method for modifying your home. 

You could also consider using removable hanging strips to put up pictures or artwork without the need for nails. Posters and framed photographs are another easy way of adding a personal touch to your decorations without damaging any walls.

Take care of the property

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is that taking proper care of your new apartment will make it feel more like a proper home than any amount of decorations could. By maintaining a clean and tidy living space you’ll make it a healthier place to live both mentally and physically. This will also give you a sense of control and ownership over your home that will allow you to relax and feel comfortable living in the space.

Methodology

We wanted to find out which cities in the country are the best for renters. To do this, we looked at a range of factors which we then combined into a single score, allowing us to rank the cities and reveal which location came top.

We used data from rent.com to find the average rent for a two-bedroom property in each city, as well as data from numbeo to find the average wage and cost of living rating. We also used Indeed to find the total number of jobs listed in each location, and divided that figure by the population of each city, leaving us with the number of jobs per 1000 people.

We also used data from The Trust for Public Land to assess the amount of green space and parks in each city, as well as the proportion of residents that live a short distance from them. The last factor we looked at was whether these cities had rent control legislation to protect renters from price hikes, which we took from a variety of sources including the National Multifamily Housing Council and Wikipedia. We assigned each city with rent protection a score of one, while those without these protections received a score of zero.

Once we had this data, we combined it into a single score that gave each factor an equal weighting and allowed us to reveal the best cities for renters. Two cities, Virginia Beach and Arlington, had to be removed due to an absence of cost of living data, leaving a total of 48 cities in our study

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Written by
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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