GOBankingRates

18 Amazing East Coast Cities With Affordable Housing

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Mark Howard / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The perception often is that the states along the coasts of the U.S. are unaffordable for most Americans. Maybe it’s time to dispel that thought.

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GOBankingRates looked the states along the East Coast from north to south — Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida — to determine their affordability.

Considering average monthly wages, rent no more than 30% of income level, cost of living compared to the national average and livability scores, we came up with 18 East Coast cities that could be considered affordable — and hopefully wonderful — places to live.

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18. Manchester, New Hampshire

  • State Average Monthly Income: $5,396
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,273
  • Population: 112,109

Manchester, in the southern portion of the state, has something for lovers of each season. Since Manchester averages about 60 inches of snow per year, skiers can pop in at the McIntrye Ski Area in the city. It’s only about a 45-minute drive from the coastline and popular Hampton Beach for summer lovers, and the nearby White Mountains offer stunning views of the budding spring colors and fall foliage. The city has the highest average monthly income on this list.

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17. Charlotte, North Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,448
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,280
  • Population: 857,425

The largest city in North Carolina, it is the headquarters of more than 10 Fortune 1000 companies, including Bank of America. It’s the only city in the study with two pro sports franchises — the Panthers of the NFL and the Hornets of the NBA. It’s also a popular destination for relocating residents. Penske Truck Rental’s Top 10 Moving Destinations list for 2021 ranked Charlotte as No. 4.

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16. Fort Myers, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,282
  • Population: 79,927

Popular among retirees, Fort Myers is a playground for all ages. With warm weather year-round, residents can take advantage of the vast network of town parks or take part in activities such as boating, fishing, hiking and tennis. And, of course, golf.

The downside: Fort Myers has one of the highest average monthly rents on the list. The upside: Florida residents don’t pay any state income tax.

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15. Wilmington, North Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,448
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,101
  • Population: 120,194

Wilmington, located along the Cape Fear River, has provided the backdrop for a number of movies and television shows, including “Iron Man 3,” “Matlock,” “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.” But it’s also a popular place for real-life residency.

The population of Wilmington grew by 8.4% from 2010 to 2020, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. In 2021, nearly 60% more people moved into the city than moved out it, according to the 2021-22 HireAHelper US Migration Report.

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14. Jacksonville, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,179
  • Population: 890,467

The largest city on the list in terms of population, Jacksonville grew by more than 125,000 residents between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It has the space for the added people, too.

With 840 square miles, Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of land mass, and it has the largest urban park system in the nation. It also has Florida’s youngest average age at 36.

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13. Durham, North Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,448
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,146
  • Population: 269,702

Durham became known in the aftermath of the Civil War for its tobacco, and the Bull Durham tobacco company was born. Textile companies then moved into the city. Now, Durham is part of the Research Triangle Park, which brought an influx of high tech and manufacturing jobs to the area.

The home of Duke University, Durham also has first-class medical facilities and is known as the City of Medicine.

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12. Gainesville, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,015
  • Population: 132,127

Gainesville has the second-lowest apartment cost in the study. And, as the home of the University of Florida, Gainesville has a cool college vibe, with plenty of free and inexpensive attractions — such as the vast public parks system and hiking trails — to appeal to students and young families alike.

In addition, only Gainesville can claim to be the home of Gatorade, where the sports drink was created by university scientists in the 1960s and named after the school mascot — the Gator.

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11. Raleigh, North Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,448
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,270
  • Population: 464,485

One of the other legs of the Research Triangle Park, Raleigh is North Carolina’s state capital. Raleigh residents can find jobs in state government or through RTP, which is the largest research park in the nation and houses hundreds of companies. They range from startups to giants IBM and GlaxoSmithKline.

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10. Charlottesville, Virginia

  • State Average Monthly Income: $5,056
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,128
  • Population: 47,096

The first of three straight Virginia locales on the list, Charlottesville is steeped in history. Among the historic sites is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. Adjacent to Monticello is Highland, the home of the fifth president, James Monroe. And about 30 miles north is Montpelier, where the fourth president, James Madison, lived with his wife, Dolley. Jefferson also founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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9. Richmond, Virginia

  • State Average Monthly Income: $5,056
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,114
  • Population: 226,622

If you live or work in downtown Richmond, you might never need to leave the neighborhood. Step outside your home or office door and head to the James River, where you’ll find the only Class IV whitewater rapids running through a downtown in the nation.

Or, take a bike ride along the river on the Virginia Capital Trail, sample the craft beer on the Richmond Beer Trail or visit one of the many museums in the state capital.

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8. Virginia Beach, Virginia

  • State Average Monthly Income: $5,056
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,430
  • Population: 450,201

Along the coastline, where the Atlantic Ocean converges with the Chesapeake Bay, is Virginia Beach. With its coastal vibe, Virginia Beach has a different feel from Charlottesville and Richmond.

It’s known for its tasty food scene, its arts and entertainment, family-friendly areas, and of course, beaches. Given its proximity to the water, it’s no surprise that Virginia Beach has the highest rental cost on the list — about $150 more than the next-highest spot on the list.

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7. Melbourne, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,226
  • Population: 81,468

East of Orlando is Melbourne, located along the Space Coast. Nearby is Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, from where satellites and spacecrafts depart en route to the International Space Station.

Historic Downtown Melbourne also has plenty to do along the waterfront, including shopping in quirky boutiques, viewing public art, enjoying the local music scene, relaxing at an outdoor lounge, or eating at one of 40 craft restaurants and bars.

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6. Panama City Beach, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,099
  • Population: 12,751

In the northwestern part of Florida is Panama City Beach, which sits along the Gulf Coast. With its miles of white sand and bright blue waters, Panama City Beach is a haven for vacationers, but its rents are in the lowest third of the study for those who want to make it their permanent residence. It’s also known for terrific dining served with a big helping of Southern hospitality.

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5. Gainesville, Georgia

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,632
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,119
  • Population: 39,991

People around the world got an introduction to Gainesville in 1996 when Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics. During the Games, the canoe and kayak events were held at Lake Lanier in Gainesville, and the venue now is home to the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club and Lake Lanier Rowing Club.

If water sports aren’t your thing, there’s plenty to do in Gainesville, such as historic walking tours and a variety of events, including outdoor concerts, Food Truck Fridays and the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival.

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4. Athens, Georgia

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,632
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $929
  • Population: 124,719

Athens, home to the University of Georgia, is the cheapest place to rent a one-bedroom apartment in the study. That leaves more money in the budget to buy football tickets to watch the defending national champion Bulldogs, or dine and shop in the historic Victorian downtown. About 60 miles from Atlanta, the city’s reputation is growing as a Southeast destination for breweries and pubs.

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3. Greensboro, North Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,448
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,046
  • Population: 291,303

Just about midway between Charlotte and Raleigh is the fifth North Carolina city on the list, Greensboro. It’s the most affordable of all cities in the study, with a cost-of-living index that’s 9% below the national average.

Given its location, Greensboro residents can get away for the weekend, too, with trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the beach to the southeast is a manageable drive.

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2. Greenville, South Carolina

  • State Average Monthly Income: $3,952
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,059
  • Population: 67,737

If you’re new to Greenville, start by finding Falls Park on the Reedy. It’s located off South Main Street and offers a ton of nature activities or things for the family to do, such as walking along the riverfront or watching the waterfalls.

Once you’ve built up an appetite or thirst, wander out on Main Street, with its trees with twinkle lights, and stop in at one of the many restaurants, breweries, wineries or coffee shops.

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1. Lakeland, Florida

  • State Average Monthly Income: $4,480
  • Average 1-Bedroom Rent: $1,190
  • Population: 107,922

Lakeland comes in at almost 4% under the national cost of living, despite its apartment rental price being in the upper half of the cities in the study. People have discovered the secret of Lakeland, though, with its population growing by 15.6% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It isn’t just retirees who land in Lakeland, either. While 22.2% of the population is 65 and older, the 19.5% of residents under 18 mean there are plenty of young families.

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Methodology: For this piece, GOBankingRates first determined (1) average monthly wages in Q3 2021 for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics County Employment and Wages news release. GOBankingRates then (2) found cities within the selected states where the average April 2022 rent for a one-bedroom apartment, sourced from ApartmentList, was no greater than 30% of state resident average monthly income (the housing budget guideline recommended by professionals); and (3) the corresponding populations for each city, sourced from the U.S. Census Bureau. Cities included in the ranking had (4) an overall cost of living index, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places, no greater than 10% higher than the national average; and (5) livability scores, sourced from Areavibes, above 65. All data was collected and is up to date as of May 11, 2022.