Midwest Offers Low Cost Of Living

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A study from Niche, a research startup, analyzed 220 U.S. cities and focused on the ratio of home value to income, median property taxes, median home values, and median rent

South Bend, Ind. Photo: Cntrlaltdel33t/Wikimedia Commons.

October 03, 2016

South Bend, Ind., isn’t just home to the University of Notre Dame. The city, with a median home value of $83,100 and a monthly housing cost-to-income ratio of 0.2:1, has the sixth-best cost of living in the U.S.

Niche, a research startup that ranks K-12 schools, colleges, and places to live, analyzed 220 U.S. cities with populations of more than 100,000 to find out which are the most inexpensive to live in relative to income. The study focused on criteria such as the ratio of home value to income, as well as median property taxes, median home values, and median rent. The cost of other expenses, such as gas and groceries, was also taken into account.

Cities were ranked based on consumer price index and access to affordable housing, which is measured by the ratio of monthly housing cost to income. Traditionally, experts say that people should spend no more than about 30 percent of income on housing per month, but it’s not uncommon for residents in pricier urban centers such as New York City or San Francisco to spend more than half of their income on housing.

All the ranked cities were either in the Midwest, the South, or the Southwest, and states such as Alabama and Indiana, with top-ranked Fort Wayne, were well represented.

While metros across the nation are dealing with affordable-housing crunches and rising prices for homes, rent, goods, and services, a few larger cities rank toward the top. Louisville, Ky. (No. 13), Oklahoma City (No. 14), and Indianapolis (No. 24), all have median home values of around $140,000 or less, and monthly rents of less than $800. All three cities have a monthly housing cost-to-income ratio and rent-to-income ratio of 0.2:1.

Most of the cities in the top 25 are relatively small. Places such as Sioux Falls, S.D.; Rochester, Minn.; Topeka, Kan.; Odessa, Texas; and Springfield, Ill., have fewer than 200,000 residents, and also have rent and housing cost ratios of 0.2:1.

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