Special Report

Counties Where the Fewest People Rent

For the first time in the nation’s history, median rents crossed $2,000. According to a report from real estate listing site Redfin, the median rent on all apartments listed nationwide rose 15% nationwide compared to a year ago. For those millions of Americans who do not have the stability afforded to them through homeownership, rising rent, along with inflation and other pandemic-related causes that have driven up housing costs, will take a serious financial toll. 

A little over one-third of U.S. housing units are occupied by renters. However, in some parts of the country, renting is so uncommon that this spike in rental prices will have a relatively small impact. 

To determine the 50 counties with the lowest rental rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. We ranked county and county equivalents by five-year estimates of the share of housing units that are occupied by renters. Nationwide, 35.6% of housing units are rental properties. Among the 50 counties on this list, that figure ranges from 14.8% to as little as 7.2% housing units.

Young people are far more likely to rent homes than buy. Well over half of all renters in the United States are under the age of 35, whereas that age group accounts for less than 10% of homeowners. Many of the counties on this list have such low shares of renters because they have older populations. 

According to the census, 23.2% of Americans are 18-34 years old. In all but one of the places on this list, that age group accounts for a smaller share of the population. In Sumter County, Florida, just 8.6% of the population is 18-34. This is the youngest county in every state.

Population density is a factor in the share of housing units that are rentals. In less urban areas, a relatively small share of residents live in multi-story rental buildings. The vast majority of these counties have lower population density than the national figure of 93 people per square mile. This includes Grant County, North Dakota, which has a population density of just 1.39 people per square mile. These are the counties with the highest rent in America.

Click here to see counties where the fewest people rent

To determine the counties with the lowest share of renters, 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.

Counties were excluded if rental rates were not available in the 2020 ACS, if there were fewer than 1,000 housing units, or if the sampling error associated with a county’s data was deemed too high.

The sampling error was defined as too high if the coefficient of variation — a statistical assessment of how reliable an estimate is — for a county’s rental rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all counties’ rental rates. We similarly excluded counties that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.

Counties were ranked based on the percentage of housing units that are occupied by renters. To break ties, we used the number 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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