Special Report

American Towns Where the Most People Rent Their Homes

A little over one-third of U.S. households live in rented homes. While many associate homeownership with economic stability, renting is often a safer choice, granting more flexibility. In addition, in cities across much of the country, for a large share of residents, particularly young ones, renting is the only financially feasible choice.

To determine the towns with the highest rental rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of housing units that are occupied by renters from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. We defined towns as census places having at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people.

Nationwide, 35.6% of housing units are rental properties. Among the 50 cities on this list, that figure ranges from 90.8% to an estimated 100% of housing units. California has the most towns on this list, with eight, followed by Hawaii with five and Virginia with four.

According to the census, 23.2% of Americans are 18-34 years old. This age group accounts for a larger share of the population in all of the places on this list, and in the majority, for more than half the population. In the University of California-Davis census designated place, an unincorporated area home to the college campus of the same name, 93.9% of residents are 18-39.  These are the colleges with the largest increase in applicants.

Population density is a factor in the share of housing units that are occupied by renters. In highly urban areas, a large share of residents live in multi-story rental buildings, rather than single-family homes. The U.S. population density is 93 people per square mile. Nearly all of the places on this list have higher population density, and half have the equivalent of at least 1,000 people per square mile.

This includes two places, Isla Vista, California, and Kaser, New York, which fall among the top five towns in the country in population per square mile. These are the nine cities with more than 20 million people.

Click here to see American towns where the most people rent their homes

To determine the towns with the highest rental rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed five-year estimates of the share of housing units that are occupied by renters from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey.

We used census “place” geographies — a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. We defined towns based on population thresholds — having at least 1,000 people and less than 25,000 people.

Towns were ranked based on the percentage of housing units that are occupied by renters. 

Additional information on median rental cost, median home value, and median household income are also five-year estimates from the 2020 ACS. 

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