Renting a home has always been more accessible than buying, but now it’s more so than ever.

A recent Creditnews report shows that record housing costs have priced middle-class Americans out of nearly half of metro areas—up from just 33 before Covid.

Is rent the solution to the homeownership crisis?

To answer that question, Creditnews Research has mapped out the least and most expensive rental markets across the United States, focusing on the top 100 most populous metro areas.

The study measures rental affordability by factoring in the average rent relative to household income in each metro area.

Sam bourgi 3
"Renting a home is much more affordable than buying today. Our analysis shows that the average family can afford rent in three-quarters of the 100 largest metros in the country."
Sam Bourgi
Senior Analyst at Creditnews Research
Key findings
  • American households earning a median income can afford rent in 73 of the top 100 metro areas. That’s a far cry from just 53 metro areas where the average family can afford to buy a home;
  • The most affordable metro areas for renters are Des Moines, IA; Wichita, KS; Omaha, NE; Akron, OH; Minneapolis, MN; St. Louis, MO-IL; Harrisburg, PA; Ogden, UT; Salt Lake City, UT; and Provo, UT;
  • The most unaffordable metros for renters are Miami, FL; New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA; Sarasota, FL; and Lakeland, FL; Cape Coral; Riverside, CA; Tampa, FL; San Diego, CA; and Boston, MA-NH;
  • Metros with the biggest rent increases are San Jose, CA; Worcester, MA-CT; Boston, MA-NH; New York, NY; Urban Honolulu, HI; Oxnard, CA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL-IN-WI; Washington, DC; and Syracuse, NY.

The 10 most affordable metro areas for renters

Creditnews Research found that the average household can afford rent in 73 of the country’s 100 largest metros.

Affordable unaffordable metros for renters

A metro area is considered affordable if average rent prices don’t exceed 30% of a household’s median income—a threshold established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The most affordable metros are located in the Midwest, with the notable exception of Utah. It’s home to three of the top 10 most affordable rental markets in the country.

It should be noted that the most affordable metro areas don’t necessarily have the lowest average rents.

Instead, they boast the lowest rent-to-income ratio, meaning that a smaller percentage of household income goes toward rent payments.

Below is a list of the top 10 most affordable metro areas for renters.

  • Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA: Iowa’s largest metro is the most affordable rental market in the country, with a rent-to-income ratio of 18.6%. That means Des Moines households spend less than one-fifth of their monthly income on rent. At $1,238 per month, the metro’s average rent is also much lower than the national average.
  • Wichita, KS: Households in Wichita spend an average of 19.6% of their monthly income on rent, making this Kansas metro the nation’s second-most affordable rental market. Despite having relatively low incomes, Wichita households benefit from one of the cheapest rental markets in the country, with the average rent going for just $1,092 per month.
  • Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA: Residents of Omaha pay an average of $1,323 per month on rent, just below 20% of their median monthly income. That makes Omaha the country’s third most affordable rental market.
  • Akron, OH: At $1,197 per month, the average rent in Akron is the second-lowest in the top 10. This Ohio metro doesn’t rank higher because its median household income ($5,554) is the lowest in the top 10.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI: Minneapolis households can expect to pay $1,655 for rent, which is equivalent to 21.7% of their average gross income. That’s still considerably lower than the national average and impressive for a metro the size of Minneapolis, boasting nearly 3.7 million people.
  • St. Louis, MO-IL: A metro area spanning nearly 3 million residents, St. Louis is the sixth most affordable rental market in the U.S. Households earning a median income can expect to pay $1,359 per month on rent, or 21.9% of their gross monthly income.
  • Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA: Harrisburg is the fourth-most populous metro area in Pennsylvania, but it’s also the most affordable for renters. With a rent-to-income ratio of 21.9%, Harrisburg also ranks as the seventh most affordable rental market in the country.
  • Ogden-Clearfield, UT: Ogden is the first of three Utah metros on the list. The metro enjoys a high standard of living, as evidenced by the median monthly household income of $7,717. However, average rent only eats up 22% of a household’s monthly income.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: The largest Utah metro, Salt Lake City enjoys a high standard of living and affordable rent prices relative to income. Average rents in this metro are $1,693, or 22.1% of the average household’s monthly income.
  • Provo-Orem, UT: Provo has the highest average rent price among the top 10 most affordable metros. Still, the average household spends just under a quarter of its monthly income on rent.

The 10 least affordable metro areas for renters

It comes as little surprise that the country’s most unaffordable rental markets are in areas with a higher cost of living and housing prices.

Four of the 10 most unaffordable metro areas for renters are in Florida—thanks in large part to a population explosion after Covid.

Miami, FL, ranks first in the country. Households in this metro earn a median monthly income of $5,897, yet they’re forking over $2,748 on rent, which translates to 46.6% of their monthly income.

The Florida metros of Lakeland, Fort Myers, and Tampa are the fifth, sixth, and eighth most unaffordable rental markets, respectively. In these metros, households spend more than 36% of their monthly income on rent.

The second-most unaffordable metro for renters is New York, NY, where households earn $7,630 per month but spend $3,206 on rent. That translates to a rent-to-income ratio of 42%.

The only other metro with a rent-to-income ratio of 40% is Los Angeles, CA, where households spend $2,925 per month on rent.

Two other California metro areas also rank near the bottom.

Riverside is the seventh most unaffordable metro for renters, with a rent-to-income ratio of 36.3%, while San Diego comes in ninth with a rent-to-income ratio of 36%

Rounding out the bottom 10 is Boston, MA, where residents earn the most ($8,692 per month) among these metros but spend a considerable portion of it ($3,079) on rent.

Below is a list of the 10 most unaffordable metro areas for renters.

Metros with the biggest quarterly rent increases

Although average rents have grown slower since mid-2023, prices are still trekking higher in many parts of the country.

Once again, places with the highest rent price growth are located on the West Coast, Northeast, and Hawaii.

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2023, San Jose, CA, saw the largest monthly increase in average rent prices ($72), followed by Worcester, MA ($56), a metro roughly 45 minutes West of Boston.

Rent prices in the Boston area increased by $55, the third highest in the top 100 metros.

Rents in New York, NY, and Honolulu, HI, grew at a comparable pace, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively.

Oxnard, CA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Washington, D.C.; and Syracuse, NY, round out the top 10 metros with the biggest monthly rent increases.

Methodology
Sources
  1. Zillow. (2024). Zillow Observed Rent Index (ZORI) (from December 31, 2023 to March 31, 2024)
  2. The Census Bureau. (2022). Income in the United States: 2022
  3. The Department of Housing and Urban Development