The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

When it comes to housing costs, these metro areas allow your paycheck to go further.

U.S. News & World Report

The 25 Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. in 2020-2021

Huntsville, AL, a city located primarily in Madison County in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama.
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1. Huntsville, Alabama

Best Places 2020 Rank: 15
Metro Population: 450,612
Median Home Price: $179,175
Average Annual Salary: $54,630
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.16%

Huntsville is the most affordable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for the third year in a row. An above-average individual annual salary and low cost of living mean Huntsville residents are keeping more money in their pockets to devote to other things. Just 19.16% of the median household income in Huntsville goes toward housing costs.

Learn more about Huntsville.

Overhead view of neighborhood with U.S. News Best Places to Live badge
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The Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. include:

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Nebraska (Quad Cities)
  • Peoria, Illinois
  • Hickory, North Carolina
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Pittsburgh

See the full rankings.

Next:
A view of downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana from Freimann Park.
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2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Best Places 2020 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 431,612
Median Home Price: $147,092
Average Annual Salary: $45,280
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.31%

Fort Wayne has fewer than 500,000 residents, but those residents benefit from being able to spend less on housing than all but one of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The cost of living in Fort Wayne is just 19.31% of the area's median household income.

Learn more about Fort Wayne.

Next:

Find an affordable place to call home.

When choosing a new place to live, the cost of living is a major consideration. Based on a survey of more than 3,000 U.S. residents on the importance of various factors in determining where to live, U.S. News weighted value at 23.37% – making it one of the key metrics used to calculate the Best Places to Live ranking. To pinpoint the most affordable places on the list, we looked at the proportion of the median annual household income that goes toward the average cost to own or rent a home, including the typical cost of utilities and taxes.

25. Spartanburg, South Carolina

Best Places 2020 Rank: 35
Metro Population: 329,839
Median Home Price: $142,867
Average Annual Salary: $43,860
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.18%

While living in a metro area like Charleston, South Carolina, might be pricey, the cost of living in other parts of Palmetto State, like Spartanburg, are much more manageable. Spartanburg is located in the northwestern part of the state, and residents spend just 21.18% of the area median household income on housing.

Learn more about Spartanburg.

24. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Best Places 2020 Rank: 132
Metro Population: 829,642
Median Home Price: $184,692
Average Annual Salary: $45,200
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.15%

After ranking No. 9 among the Best Affordable Places to Live in 2019, Baton Rouge falls to the No. 24 spot after a slight increase in the cost of living. Baton Rouge residents spend 21.15% of the area median household income on housing, which is still very low compared to many major metro areas throughout the U.S.

Learn more about Baton Rouge.

23. St. Louis

Best Places 2020 Rank: 105
Metro Population: 2,805,551
Median Home Price: $167,400
Average Annual Salary: $50,250
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.15%

St. Louis beats Baton Rouge by a few thousandths of a percentage point for the No. 23 spot. Missouri’s largest metro area offers more affordability compared with other places in the U.S. of the same size. For instance, Baltimore and Tampa, Florida, can’t match the 21.15% cost of living compared to household income that St. Louis offers.

Learn more about St. Louis.

22. Kansas City, Missouri

Best Places 2020 Rank: 64
Metro Population: 2,106,632
Median Home Price: $208,725
Average Annual Salary: $50,200
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.14%

This metro area that straddles Missouri and Kansas is home to more than 2.1 million residents, but it still maintains greater affordability than most major U.S. metro areas. Kansas City residents dedicate just 21.14% of their household income to the cost of living.

Learn more about Kansas City.

21. Lafayette, Louisiana

Best Places 2020 Rank: 131
Metro Population: 488,969
Median Home Price: $166,833
Average Annual Salary: $40,540
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.12%

The second Louisiana metro area on the Best Affordable Places to Live list, Lafayette has a cost of living of just 21.12% of the median household income. The low cost of living helps balance out the area’s lower average annual salary, which at $40,540 is more than $10,000 below the national average of $51,960.

Learn more about Lafayette.

20. Lincoln, Nebraska

Best Places 2020 Rank: 33
Metro Population: 327,221
Median Home Price: $184,542
Average Annual Salary: $46,800
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.07%

Life in Nebraska's capital city and its surrounding suburbs remains fairly cheap. Lincoln residents spend just 21.07% of the median household income on rent or mortgage payments and additional housing costs. The low cost of living is a contributing factor to Lincoln’s No. 33 spot on the overall Best Places to Live ranking.

Learn more about Lincoln.

19. Greenville, South Carolina

Best Places 2020 Rank: 32
Metro Population: 883,853
Median Home Price: $183,200
Average Annual Salary: $43,960
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 21.04%

Ranking No. 32 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Greenville enjoys a low cost of living with residents spending just 21.04% of the median household income on housing. A steadily growing number of people are benefiting from the low cost of living: Greenville’s population grew by 4.21% due to net migration between 2014 and 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Greenville.

18. Buffalo, New York

Best Places 2020 Rank: 72
Metro Population: 1,131,570
Median Home Price: $152,842
Average Annual Salary: $49,420
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.93%

This upstate New York metro area has long maintained a low cost of living for its residents. People who live in the Buffalo area spend just 20.93% of the median household income on living expenses.

Learn more about Buffalo.

17. Louisville, Kentucky

Best Places 2020 Rank: 88
Metro Population: 1,285,270
Median Home Price: $162,908
Average Annual Salary: $45,740
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.91%

Louisville, the No. 12 Best Affordable Place to Live in 2019, has fallen five spots to rank 17th on the list this year. That doesn’t mean the metro area isn’t affordable, however – with a median annual salary of $45,740, Louisville residents spend just 20.91% of their household income on living expenses.

Learn more about Louisville.

16. Kalamazoo, Michigan

Best Places 2020 Rank: 46
Metro Population: 336,845
Median Home Price: $154,142
Average Annual Salary: $47,060
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.86%

The average individual annual salary in Kalamazoo, at $47,060, is below the national average of $51,960, but Kalamazoo residents benefit from a cost of living that's just 20.86% of the area median household income.

Learn more about Kalamazoo.

15. Youngstown, Ohio

Best Places 2020 Rank: 128
Metro Population: 545,488
Median Home Price: $92,317
Average Annual Salary: $42,070
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.86%

With a little more than a half-million residents, the Youngstown metro area has a cost of living that requires 20.86% of the median household income. The median home price for the metro area is low as well, at just $92,317, which is more than $140,000 below the national average of $232,933.

Learn more about Youngstown.

14. Omaha, Nebraska

Best Places 2020 Rank: 40
Metro Population: 922,891
Median Home Price: $189,275
Average Annual Salary: $48,690
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.83%

With an average annual salary of $48,690, Omaha takes the No. 14 spot among the most affordable metro areas for the second year in a row. The largest metro area in Nebraska has seen a slight decrease in the cost of living compared to last year, with residents spending just 20.83% of their household income on housing.

Learn more about Omaha.

13. Cincinnati

Best Places 2020 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 2,168,825
Median Home Price: $165,942
Average Annual Salary: $50,030
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.67%

Cincinnati residents spend slightly less than Omahans on housing costs. The typical cost of living is 20.67% of the median household income. At $165,942, the median home price in Cincinnati is also well below the national median home price of $232,933.

Learn more about Cincinnati.

12. Green Bay, Wisconsin

Best Places 2020 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 317,702
Median Home Price: $175,117
Average Annual Salary: $45,570
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.46%

Among northern metro areas that offer a low cost of living, Green Bay might be the best option for you. Green Bay residents spend just 20.46% of the area median household income on housing costs. With just 317,000 residents, Green Bay is also the smallest metro area in the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live.

Learn more about Green Bay.

11. Indianapolis

Best Places 2020 Rank: 62
Metro Population: 2,007,497
Median Home Price: $175,942
Average Annual Salary: $49,380
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.4%

Indianapolis is one of three Indiana metro areas on the 25 Best Affordable Places to Live list for 2020-2021. Indianapolis residents spend just 20.4% of their household income on rent, mortgage payments, utilities and taxes.

Learn more about Indianapolis.

10. Pittsburgh

Best Places 2020 Rank: 77
Metro Population: 2,339,941
Median Home Price: $147,158
Average Annual Salary: $50,070
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.37%

Located in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh enjoys a more affordable cost of living than Philadelphia to the east. Residents of the Steel City and its surrounding area spend just 20.37% of their household income on rent or mortgage payments and utilities.

Learn more about Pittsburgh.

9. Grand Rapids, Michigan

Best Places 2020 Rank: 23
Metro Population: 1,050,440
Median Home Price: $195,775
Average Annual Salary: $45,670
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.31%

Money goes further in Grand Rapids than in most parts of the U.S. While the median annual salary is below the national average of $51,960, metro area residents spend just 20.31% of the median household income on living expenses.

Learn more about Grand Rapids.

8. Hickory, North Carolina

Best Places 2020 Rank: 49
Metro Population: 365,339
Median Home Price: $152,258
Average Annual Salary: $40,610
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.2%

This metro area in North Carolina's Catawba Valley offers a small-town atmosphere that is seeing growth from larger metro areas within a couple hours' drive, including Charlotte and Asheville. Hickory residents enjoy a lower cost of living than the more populated parts of the state and spend just 20.2% of the median household income on housing.

Learn more about Hickory.

7. Peoria, Illinois

Best Places 2020 Rank: 103
Metro Population: 374,426
Median Home Price: $116,008
Average Annual Salary: $51,510
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.08%

As is apparent throughout the list, Midwestern metro areas often offer a low cost of living, and Peoria is no exception. Residents of this central Illinois spot spend just 20.08% of the median household income on rent or mortgage payments, plus property taxes, utilities and other housing costs.

Learn more about Peoria.

6. Quad Cities – Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline-Rock Island, Illinois

Best Places 2020 Rank: 79
Metro Population: 382,720
Median Home Price: N/A
Average Annual Salary: $47,220
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.07%

This metro area straddles the state line between Iowa and Illinois, and residents of both states benefit from an overall low cost of living in the Quad Cities area. Residents throughout the area, which includes Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois, spend just 20.07% of the median household income on housing.

Learn more about the Quad Cities.

5. South Bend, Indiana

Best Places 2020 Rank: 70
Metro Population: 320,700
Median Home Price: $133,908
Average Annual Salary: $45,580
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 20.02%

This small Indiana metro area located just south of the state line with Michigan manages to keep housing costs low for residents, requiring just 20.02% of the area's median household income to cover the cost of living.

Learn more about South Bend.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Best Places 2020 Rank: 8
Metro Population: 526,412
Median Home Price: $192,708
Average Annual Salary: $46,470
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.99%

Fayetteville continues to grow in population, which has increased by 5.78% between 2014 and 2018 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, the area maintains a low cost of living. Residents spend just one-fifth of their household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Fayetteville.

3. Des Moines, Iowa

Best Places 2020 Rank: 7
Metro Population: 634,201
Median Home Price: $196,067
Average Annual Salary: $52,220
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.77%

Des Moines has long been known for its low cost of living. Des Moines took the top spot in the Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. 2016 and 2017 rankings, and has held strong at the No. 3 spot for the last three years. Des Moines residents spend just 19.77% of the median annual household income on living costs.

Learn more about Des Moines.

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

Best Places 2020 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 431,612
Median Home Price: $147,092
Average Annual Salary: $45,280
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.31%

Fort Wayne has fewer than 500,000 residents, but those residents benefit from being able to spend less on housing than all but one of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. The cost of living in Fort Wayne is just 19.31% of the area's median household income.

Learn more about Fort Wayne.

1. Huntsville, Alabama

Best Places 2020 Rank: 15
Metro Population: 450,612
Median Home Price: $179,175
Average Annual Salary: $54,630
Income Spent on Living Expenses: 19.16%

Huntsville is the most affordable place to live out of the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for the third year in a row. An above-average individual annual salary and low cost of living mean Huntsville residents are keeping more money in their pockets to devote to other things. Just 19.16% of the median household income in Huntsville goes toward housing costs.

Learn more about Huntsville.

The Best Affordable Places to Live in the U.S. include:

  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Davenport-Bettendorf, Iowa and Nebraska (Quad Cities)
  • Peoria, Illinois
  • Hickory, North Carolina
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Pittsburgh

See the full rankings.

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