Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing

After unearthing where low income people are most pressed to pay rent, we wanted to find the Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing.


Like our 10 Worst Cities list, we used HUD.gov section 8 housing data to analyze affordable housing opportunities in each city for all 50 states (and Washington, D.C.). We also looked as the costs of monthly rent and mean average income to name the Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing.

Most cities in this list have lower populations, but their ratio of affordable housing units is high, which means the lowest income residents have an easier time accessing housing which they can afford in areas with urban amenities. In addition, most of market rents in our list hover around or are below the conventional national affordability standard, where average income residents spend about 30 percent of earnings on their rents or mortgages.

While most U.S. cities still do not have enough affordable housing for their populations of below average income residents, the Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing offer more chances for more people to manage both housing costs and other basic expenses.

Explore the Gov1 Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing and share our infographic.

Efficientgov's Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing

Residents of Wilmington, Del., spend around 30.2 percent of their gross income on rent. Currently, the median monthly rent in Wilmington is $1,350. The annual mean wage is $53,670 and the unemployment rate is currently at 4.9 percent, .2 percent lower than the national average of 5.1 percent.

Average residents in Cincinnati, Ohio, spend around 27.91 percent of their gross income on rent. While the annual mean wage in Cincinnati is $47,030, the median monthly rent is $1,095. The unemployment rate is 4.4 percent, .7 percent lower than the national average.

People living in Burlington, Vt., spend around 55 percent of their gross income on rent—the highest in our list. Currently, the median monthly rent in Burlington is $2,275 and the annual mean wage is $49,620. But with an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent—2.2 percent lower than the national average and the lowest on our list—along with its high number of affordable housing complexes relative to total population, Burlington earns the number three spot in the Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing.

Average residents in Huntington, W.Va., spend around 25.98 percent of their gross income on rent. The median monthly rent is $850, the lowest rent on our list, tied with our number 10 best city for affordability. The annual mean wage in Huntington is $39,260, and the unemployment rate is currently at 6.3 percent, 1.2 percent higher than the national average.

Rhode Islanders living in their capital city of Providence spend around 38.5 percent of their gross income on housing with a median monthly rent of $1,600. The annual mean wage is $49,890 and the unemployment rate is on target with the national average at 5.1 percent.

In Hartford, Conn., the average person spends 29.5 percent of their gross income on rent. Currently, the median monthly rent in Hartford is $1,400 and the average annual wage is $56,870. Unemployment is 6.1 percent.

In St. Louis, Mo., people spend around 22.9 percent of their gross income on rent—the second lowest percentage on our list of Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing. That’s because the median monthly rent in St. Louis is $900. With an annual mean wage of $47,200 and an unemployment rate at 4.9 percent, more people are living and managing basic expenses in this Midwestern city.

The average resident in Grand Forks, N.D., spends 34.3 percent of their gross income on rent with a median monthly rent of $1,200. The annual mean wage is $42,030, and the unemployment rate is low at 3.5 percent, 1.6 percent lower than the national average.

In Columbia S.C., average residents spend 32.7 percent of their gross incomes on rent. The median rental is $1,150 per month, and the annual mean wage is $42,200. The unemployment rate in Columbia is currently 5.3 percent.

Renting in Birmingham, Ala., people spend around 22.4 percent of their gross income on rent, the lowest percentage on the Top 10 Best Cities for Affordable Housing. The annual mean wage in Birmingham is $45,590, and with a low median monthly rent at $850, housing is more affordable. However, the unemployment rate is currently at 6 percent, .9 percent higher than the national average.

Editor’s Note: The list is accurate as of August 29, 2016. Median rent per month data is available at Trulia.com, and average wage and unemployment percentages are tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We wanted to eliminate as many outliers as possible so we applied the real estate industry standard of median measurement for rent and the BLS standard of mean for annual wage. However, we erroneously used the word average in place of median in Grand Rapids above and updated this article on August 30, 2016. We apologize for any confusion.

Learn more about our methodology in EfficientGov’s Top 10 Best States for Affordable Housing.

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