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The 10 U.S. cities where renters’ incomes go the furthest—No. 1 is in California




February 17, 2024

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Half of U.S. renters put more than 30% of their income toward their rent


For Shalonda Lucas, living somewhere affordable hasn’t meant giving up the perks of a lively city.


The 39-year-old recruiter lives in Surprise, Arizona, which was named the second-best place in the U.S. for renters to get the most out of their income by a recent RentCafe study.


“I just love this area so much,” Lucas tells CNBC Make It. “Surprise is one of those cities that’s growing — new businesses coming might have more job opportunities coming into play, and it’s a very diverse city. It’s continuing to grow and expand, and I see a lot of people, even from California, coming here.”

Lucas makes about $70,000 a year and pays $1,795 a month in rent. Though Surprise is slightly more expensive than where she previously lived in North Phoenix, Arizona, she says it’s well worth the cost and she’s still able to enjoy the entertainment and shopping Surprise has to offer.


“It’s very affordable,” Lucas says. “If you’re looking for something luxurious, that’s more upscale, and you’re looking for a city where you want to retire, Surprise is it.”

Surprise follows Sunnyvale, California, in RentCafe’s ranking. In Sunnyvale, high incomes help make steep living costs affordable for residents. The city’s average monthly rent of $3,013 is well above the national average of $1,702, but renters there earn a median income of $145,723 — nearly triple the national median of $49,201 among renters, according to RentCafe’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.


In Surprise, the average monthly rent is $1,781, only slightly higher than the national average. But similar to Sunnyvale, the median annual income among renters is also higher at $86,236, helping make it a relatively affordable place to live.


RentCafe’s study compared median incomes among renters in 189 U.S. cities with local average rent prices to see where renters can get the most out of their money. Though the cost of rent was the largest factor in the ranking, it also took local costs of necessities such as food, health care, transportation and more into account to rank the cities by overall affordability.


Here are the top 10 U.S. cities where renters’ incomes go the furthest, according to RentCafe.


1. Sunnyvale, California

Median renters’ household income: $145,723

Average monthly rent: $3,013


2. Surprise, Arizona

Median renters’ household income: $86,236

Average monthly rent: $1,781


3. Arlington, Virginia

Median renters’ household income: $102,710

Average monthly rent: $2,494


4. Bethesda, Maryland

Median renters’ household income: $99,315

Average monthly rent: $2,684


5. Alexandria, Virginia

Median renters’ household income: $89,845

Average monthly rent: $2,068


6. Westminster, Colorado

Median renters’ household income: $75,841

Average monthly rent: $1,864


7. Scottsdale, Arizona

Median renters’ household income: $82,865

Average monthly rent: $2,084


8. Round Rock, Texas

Median renters’ household income: $68,517

Average monthly rent: $1,574


9. Plano, Texas

Median renters’ household income: $76,824

Average monthly rent: $1,786


10. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Median renters’ household income: $54,594

Average monthly rent: $1,117



Though residents of the top places on the list may be able to make the most of their incomes, that isn’t the case for many people in the U.S. More renters than ever are burdened by the cost of their dwellings, according to a recent Harvard study.


In fact, half of U.S. renters put more than 30% of their income toward their rent, the study found. Experts recommend keeping rental costs at or below 30% of your income to help maintain financial stability.


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