Special Report

American Cities Where the Fewest People Rent

The cost of buying a home was 55% higher in May than the year before, both as a result of prices increasing and higher mortgage rates, the National Association of Realtors reported. And rates have continued to rise since. For many Americans, renting is the only financially feasible choice. However, rents have also skyrocketed, and in some places where renting is relatively uncommon, there are very few rental properties available.

To determine the 50 cities with the lowest share of rental properties, 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. Cities needed to have a population of at least 25,000 to be considered. 

Nationwide, 35.6% of housing units are rental properties. Among the 50 cities on this list, that figure ranges from 13.9% to as low as 5.8% of housing units. New York has the most places on this list, with nine, followed by Maryland with six, and Illinois with five.

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 cities 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, and in the vast majority, less than 20% of the population falls into that age range. In the community of Sun City West, Arizona, a noted retirement destination, just 2.2% of the population is 18-34, the lowest share of any place with 25,000 people. This is the youngest place in every state.

Many of the places on this list have such low rental rates because they are long-standing suburban housing developments, made up almost entirely of single-family homes, with no multi-story buildings that often are used as rental properties. One such example is Levittown, New York, the famous suburban housing development in Long Island built after World War II that housed tens of thousands of Americans, many of them veterans. In Levittown, just 5.8% of housing units are rental properties, the lowest such share in the country. These are the American towns where the most veterans live.

Click here to see cities with the lowest rental rates

To determine the 50 cities 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.

We used census “place” geographies — a category that includes incorporated legal entities and census-designated statistical entities. We defined cities based on a population threshold — census places needed to have a population of at least 25,000 to be considered. 

Cities 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 city’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 city’s rental rate was above 15% and greater than two standard deviations above the mean CV for all cities’ rental rates. We similarly excluded cities that had a sampling error too high for their population, using the same definition.

Cities 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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