Ontario and San Bernardino among worst places to rent

With last year’s rental prices having grown at nearly double the rate of any previous year, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst Places to Rent in America. No California city made the top 10 for Best Cities for Renters.

San Bernardino has also been ranked one of the worst places for veterans, one of the worst for raising a family and one of the least safe cities in America, according to WalletHub.

To help prospective renters get the most bang for their buck, WalletHub compared more than 180 U.S. cities based on 22 key indicators of rental attractiveness and quality of life. The data set ranges from historical rental-price changes to the cost of living to job availability.

Best Cities for Renters
1. Columbia, MD
2. Overland Park, KS
3. Sioux Falls, SD
4. Bismarck, ND
5. Lincoln, NE
6. Chandler, AZ
7. Scottsdale, AZ
8. Gilbert, AZ
9. El Paso, TX
10. Casper, WY

Worst Cities for Renters
173. Augusta, GA
174. Ontario, CA
175. Vancouver, WA
176. Shreveport, LA
177. Columbus, GA
178. New Orleans, LA
179. Cleveland, OH
180. San Bernardino, CA
181. Memphis, TN
182. Detroit, MI

Best vs. Worst

  • Cheyenne, Wyoming, has the highest rental affordability, with the lowest median annual gross rent divided by median annual household income at 15.43 percent, which is 2.4 times lower than in Hialeah, Florida, the city with the lowest at 37.74 percent.
  • Little Rock, Arkansas, has the highest rental vacancy rate, 12.00 percent, which is 7.5 times higher than in Nashua, New Hampshire and South Burlington, Vermont, the city with the lowest at 1.60 percent.
  • Newark, New Jersey, has the highest share of renter-occupied housing units, 76.50 percent, which is 3.6 times higher than in Port St. Lucie, Florida, the city with the lowest at 21.20 percent.
  • Brownsville, Texas, has the lowest cost-of-living index, 73, which is 2.7 times lower than in New York, the city with the highest at 195.
  • Irvine, California, has the fewest violent crimes (per 1,000 residents), 0.51, which is 46.1 times fewer than in Memphis, the city with the most at 23.52.

Expert Commentary

What tips do you have for a person looking to get the best value in an apartment?

“Choose a location over more square footage. People with shorter commutes are happier than those with longer commutes to a much greater degree than people with more space per person. Getting some movement during the day is also excellent for our mental health so, if you have a choice, choose a neighborhood that lets you walk to a few basic amenities and/or take transit. The typical American now has about 3x as much personal space as in 1950. It is very hard to find evidence that that increase in square footage has increased our health or happiness. It is really not such a big deal for two school-aged kids to share a bedroom, for example. Your kids would rather spend time with you than have more space so choose a short commute over a larger house.”
— Andra Ghent – Professor, University of Utah

— Peter Smirniotopoulos – Founder & Principal, petersgroup consulting; Design principal, peters studio design/build; Graduate Professor, George Washington University

Are the fastest growing cities a good place for renters? Why?

“The fastest-growing cities are not always the best as the rent is increasing faster in these cities. If possible, look for cities in the range of 50,000 or less in population. They are more manageable from a municipal viewpoint.”
—David Fiorenza – Assistant Professor, Villanova University

“Yes and no. Let’s start with the negatives. Increasing demand for apartments with limited rental inventory naturally brings forth higher rents both in newer units and older buildings…Due to the limited availability of rental units, negotiating lower rates in the rental contract is difficult. But for newcomers, moving to the fastest growing cities is usually due to them accepting a high-paying job offer that would not be available elsewhere. Fast growth often involves improving urban infrastructure, including more options for shopping, entertainment, and recreation. During the pandemic, we also saw growth in areas with relatively low costs of living that offered high quality of life, mostly driven by professionals who started working remotely.”
— Tatiana A. Vdovina – Finance Ph.D. Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis

How can local policymakers make housing more affordable for renters without upsetting homeowners? 

“One of the most-effective policy prescriptions for increasing the supply of affordable housing is encouraging greater density; another is streamlining the approvals process, including reducing development fees, which get passed on directly to renters. Highly amenitized multifamily projects accessible to the owners of for-sale dwelling units in close enough proximity to take advantage of those amenities tend to counter or at least soften the NIMBY concerns that have, over the past 50 years, making it difficult or impossible to develop high-quality, affordable residential projects. Land use control policies and approval processes that incentivize these types of affordable housing developments can go a long way toward increasing production, although this will take some time (years, not months).”
— Peter Smirniotopoulos – Founder & Principal, petersgroup consulting; Design principal, peters studio design/build; Graduate Professor, George Washington University

“The policies of inclusionary/price-control zoning, such as ones across different parts of California, have not really worked. Taxes being passed on to landowners and homebuyers made many homeowners upset and created negative sentiment around affordable housing projects. But local policymakers in the U.S. could take some notes from other countries’ practices. In Finland, new luxury housing construction allowed for more vacancies in more affordable rental units: for every 100 luxury units, roughly 60 affordable units opened up (data from Hoover Institution and Full Stack Economics). Another idea that is more applicable to many cities in the U.S. would be retrofitting unused old historic buildings in city downtown areas with amenities that can allow them to become apartment buildings. The same retrofitting can apply to vacant shopping centers. That way, vacant real estate can be put to use without directly affecting homeowners. The Arcade Providence in Providence, RI is one successful example of converting an old shopping mall into a micro-apartment building of 48 rental units.”
— Tatiana A. Vdovina – Finance Ph.D. Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis



Image Sources

  • For Rent: Shutterstock