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SmartAsset: Cities Where Renters Can Afford to Live Alone - 2022 Edition

Rent prices are rising rapidly in many of America’s largest cities. Nationally, average rent increased by 11.3% between the start of 2021 and 2022. To more comfortably afford housing costs, some renters opt to share a space. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly one in three adults have a roommate. However, many people prefer living alone, if it fits in their monthly budget.

In this study, we compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across topics such as rent costs, earnings, living costs and employment to uncover where renters can afford to live alone. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s fifth study on the cities where renters can afford to live alone. Check out the previous version here.

Key Findings

  • Minneapolis takes the top spot from Cincinnati for the first time in five years. The larger Twin City offers higher average earnings for full-time workers (nearly $10,000 more) and an unemployment rate (1.4%) that is roughly half the rate in Cincinnati (3.1%).
  • Four of the top 10 cities have an unemployment rate below 2.0%. As of April 2022, the average rate across the top 10 cities is 2.2%. Comparatively, four of the bottom 10 cities have an unemployment rate that is 5.0% or higher and the average across the bottom 10 cities is 4.2%.
  • The average solo renter can pay less than $1,000 per month in six of the top 10 cities. Additionally, more than a quarter of the 100 largest cities have an average rent of less than $1,000 for a studio or one-bedroom apartment.

1. Minneapolis, MN

The most populous city in Minnesota claims the top spot and also has the lowest April 2022 unemployment rate, at 1.4%. Minneapolis has the ninth-highest percentage of housing units that have less than two bedrooms (32.81%). Rent for these types of units is $1,130 on average and full-time workers in the city earn an average of $55,754.

2. Omaha, NE

Omaha, Nebraska offers the 15th-lowest average rent for a studio or one-bedroom apartment ($837). The city has the ninth-lowest unemployment rate for April 2022 (2.2%) and the 37th-highest average earnings for full-time worker ($49,171). The estimated annual cost of living in Omaha is about $23,800.

3. Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati, Ohio has the seventh-lowest cost of living ($22,721) and 18th-lowest average rent for a housing unit with less than two bedrooms ($895). Moreover, renters looking to live alone will have plenty of housing options, as more than 29% of apartments in the city have less than two bedrooms.

4. St. Paul, MN

Similar to Minneapolis, the city of St. Paul has a low unemployment rate for April 2022, at 1.6%. St. Paul also has the 29th-lowest average rent for a studio or one-bedroom apartment ($1,018). Across the city, 25.87% of housing units have less than two bedrooms (24th-highest).

5. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, Nebraska ranks in the top 20 cities for three metrics. First, Lincoln has the third-lowest unemployment rate for April 2022 (1.8%). It also has the 15th-lowest estimated annual cost of living of all the cities in this study ($23,419) and the 17th-lowest average rent for an apartment with less than two bedrooms ($877).

6. Madison, WI

The Mad City has an unemployment rate that falls in the top 10, ranking sixth at 2.0%. For an apartment with less than two bedrooms, the average rent is $1,083 (ranking 27th-best) and roughly 24% of all units fall into that category. Average earnings for full-time workers and the cost of living is roughly $52,900 and $26,300, respectively.

7. Wichita, KS

Wichita, Kansas offers the lowest average monthly rent for an apartment with less than two bedrooms, at $581. Wichita also has the second-lowest cost of living ($22,160) and the 22nd-lowest April 2022 unemployment rate (2.7%).

8. Lexington, KY

Average rent for studios and one-bedroom apartments in Lexington, Kentucky is $749 (ranking fifth) and the annual cost of living is about $23,200 (ranking 13th). Full-time workers earn an average of $47,000. Additionally, Lexington ties for the 36th-lowest unemployment rate for April 2022 (2.8%).

9. Tulsa, OK

Tulsa, Oklahoma ties with Lexington, Kentucky for its April 2022 unemployment rate (2.8%). Average rent for an apartment with fewer than two bedrooms is $780. With full-time workers in the city earning roughly $41,800 and the low average rent figure, many individuals can afford to live alone.

10. Seattle, WA

Seattle, Washington has a high concentration of studio and one-bedroom apartments. Roughly 37% of apartments have less than two bedrooms (fourth-highest) and the average rent for these will cost an average of $1,528. The unemployment rate in April 2022 was 1.9%, which is fourth-lowest overall, and average earnings for full-time workers are nearly $78,500, which ranks fifth-highest.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where renters can afford to live alone, SmartAsset looked at data on the 100 of the largest U.S. cities. We compared them across five metrics:

  • Average rent for a unit with fewer than two bedrooms. This is the average of median monthly rent for a studio and median monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit. Data comes from Zumper and is from June 2021 to May 2022.
  • Percentage of housing units with fewer than two bedrooms. This is the percentage of occupied housing units that are either studio or one-bedroom apartments or homes. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Median earnings for full-time workers. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Cost of living. This is the estimated annual cost of living for an individual, accounting for housing, food, transportation, healthcare and other basic budget needs. Data comes from the MIT Cost of Living Calculator MIT Living Wage Calculator and is for 2022. This metric is measured at the county level.
  • April 2022 unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and is measured at the county level.

We ranked each city in every metric and found each city’s average ranking, with each metric receiving an equal weight. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100 while the city with the worst average ranking received a score of 0.

Financial Tips for a Solo Renter

  • Create a responsive budget. Living costs are rising and that may strain your wallet. Tackle the rising cost of living with our budget calculator and see how the current economic climate will impact your savings.
  • Know what you can afford. Using our paycheck calculator can help you visualize your take-home pay. Then learn about the guidelines for how much you should spend on your rent before making a decision that meets your financial needs.
  • Consult with a professional partner. A financial advisor can guide you through important financial decisions and help you shape your financial future. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. 

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock/fizkes

Anja Solum Anja Solum is a data journalist at SmartAsset covering a variety of personal finance topics, including retirement and debt management. Before joining SmartAsset, she worked on both agency and in-house content marketing teams where she developed her love for data analysis and visualization. In her free time, she nurtures a passion for gaming, a recent addiction to anime & KDramas, and a mischievous labrador retriever. A bit of a nomad, she’s lived in Norway, Jamaica, and Denmark in addition to the U.S. but now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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