Cities Where the Most People Rent

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 50 metropolitan areas 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.  Nationwide, 35.6% of housing units live in rental properties, among the 50 counties on this list, among the 50 metro areas on this list, between 40.5% and 51.3% do.

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 metropolitan areas on this list have such high shares of renters because they have younger populations.

According to the census, 23.2% of Americans are 18-34 years old. In all but two of the places on this list, that age group accounts for a larger share of the population, including nine where more than one-third of the population is 18-34. In the Manhattan, Kansas metropolitan area, which has the second-highest rental rate among metro areas, 40.5% of the population is 18-34, third-highest percentage among all U.S. metropolitan areas.

California has by far the most metropolitan areas on this list, with 14. Georgia is second with five, Texas has four, and Nevada, New York, and North Carolina have three each. With the exception of Nevada, all these states rank as among the youngest. This is the youngest county in every state.

In a number of metro areas where a higher share of housing units are rentals, especially those that are not as disproportionately young, property is very expensive and many residents are priced out. While rent also tends to be high in these metros, renting is a considerably more affordable option.

The U.S. median home value is $229,800. In a number of the California metropolitan areas on this list, as well as the Honolulu metropolitan area, the New York City metro area and others, median home values are well above $300,000. The San Jose metropolitan area has a median home value of $1,041,800, the highest of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Population density is also a factor in the share of rental units. Four of the five metropolitan areas with the highest population density — San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and the New York City metro area — are on this list. In these highly urban areas, a large share of residents live in multi-story rental buildings, rather than single-family homes. These are the states where the population has gone up since the pandemic started.

Click here to see cities where the most people rent

To determine the metros with the highest 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 the 384 metropolitan statistical areas as delineated by the United States Office of Management and Budget and used by the Census Bureau as our definition of metros.

Metropolitan areas 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. Because the Census Bureau didn’t release one-year estimates for 2020 due to data collection issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all ACS data are five-year estimates.

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