Where Do Renters Get the Most for Their Dollar?

Many of the growing contingent of renters would like to know just where their housing dollars stretch the furthest. A new study by RentCafe attempts to answer the question by comparing the median rent and the cost of utilities, food, health care, transportation and other essential goods and services in various U.S. metros.

Generally, it is higher incomes, not lower rents, that define areas of value — so don’t expect a list of places with the cheapest rents. This is because the study measures financial burden against renters’ median household income in each area. In many pricey areas, the income is high enough that a smaller share is spent on rent and essential living costs, compared with less expensive areas. (Household income was drawn from Census Bureau; the Cost of Living Index was used to determine living expenses and the Yardi Matrix was the source of median rents.)

Sunnyvale, Calif., with a median renter income of nearly $150,000, was found least burdensome to local renters despite its high median rent of over $3,000 a month. Many of the other sweet spots for renters were in expensive metros or their suburbs. The full rankings reveal mostly wealthy and middle-class areas with a median household income of about $98,000 (about double the national median).

There were exceptions, including Lawton, Okla., about an hour and a half from Oklahoma City. Ranked 15th, it had the lowest median rent on the list, just $830 a month, and a median income of about $43,000, below the national median of about $49,000.

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