5 Affordable Cities Becoming Popular With Gen Z

Frozen pond in a park in downtown Omaha.
MidwestWilderness / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Affordable living is a top priority for Gen Z and this young generation is shifting its focus from the bright lights and high prices of big cities to more budget-friendly options.

As this generation desires work-life balance and financial stability, Gen Z is flocking to cities that offer both affordability and appeal

While young Americans may not be able to afford to live in the grand cities of Los Angeles and New York, check out these five cost-effective cities that are quickly becoming popular with Gen Z.

Omaha, Nebraska

  • Average one-bedroom rent in Omaha: $984

While Omaha might appear to be nothing more than cornfields, it is a surprising magnet for young Americans looking to live affordably and experience all four seasons. 

“Omaha is a hotspot for young professionals,” said Humberto Marquez, a licensed real estate broker with Awning. “Why? First, the cost of living is ridiculously low. We’re talking about a nice balance between urban living and not having to eat instant ramen every meal.

“Plus, Omaha has a burgeoning tech scene … and cultural diversity that’s blossoming. It’s not all steak and buffet here anymore; there’s a real sense of community and innovation. I’ve worked with several Gen Z clients who were thrilled to find they could own property here without selling an arm and a kidney.” 

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With the average one-bedroom rent in this city under $1,000, Omaha is significantly more affordable than most cities in the U.S. However, it’s important to note that rent growth in this city has increased by a significant 4.9% over the past 12 months.

Boise, Idaho

  • Average one-bedroom rent in Boise: $1,076

Boise isn’t just a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts; it also boasts a low income tax and cost of living, making it an attractive spot for Gen Zers. Young Americans don’t have to sacrifice quality of life in this city due to its exciting nightlife and booming job market. 

“Boise is scenic, with a river literally running through it, mountains nearby and an emphasis on sustainability, which resonates with Gen Z ideals,” Marquez said. “The green spaces, the love for local businesses and a surprisingly vibrant arts scene make it a magnetic spot.

“Affordable? Absolutely. A little-known fact is that Boise has some of the most reasonable property prices in the Pacific Northwest. It’s like you’re getting Portland vibes without the Portland price tag.” 

The average one-bedroom rent in Boise hovers just above $1,000; in the past year, the median rent has decreased by an impressive 6.4%, placing it below the national average. 

Tucson, Arizona

  • Average one-bedroom rent in Tucson: $1,030

Tucson is rapidly emerging as an affordable and appealing option for Gen Zers seeking a walkable city. Neighborhoods such as Armory Park and El Presidio feature vibrant architecture, and the city’s green initiatives enable this environmentally conscious generation to support a local economy that aligns with their values. 

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“A city with a college-town feel, rich cultural heritage, fantastic food — the Mexican cuisine here is to die for — and it’s one of the sunniest places in the U.S.,” Marquez said. “The living costs? Way lower than you’d expect for a city with such a rich tapestry of experiences. Plus, the sustainability initiatives here are through the roof. Solar energy is big, and there’s a city-wide initiative to increase urban agriculture.”

The average price of a one-bedroom apartment in Tucson is slightly less than that of Boise. While the cost of living is low, the rent in Tucson has increased 3.3% over the past year. 

Chattanooga, Tennessee

  • Average one-bedroom rent in Chattanooga: $1,025

Hang gliding, bass fishing and mountain climbing are just some of the outdoor adventure opportunities Chattanooga offers in addition to its impressively low cost of living. The digital generation also will appreciate the impressive internet speeds in this city. 

“Nestled along the Tennessee River and surrounded by mountains, Chattanooga is a haven for those who love nature,” Marquez said. “But what’s drawing Gen Z here? Gigabit internet — it was the first city in the Western Hemisphere to roll this out. There’s a startup scene here that’s just revving up, and the affordability is mind-blowing. You get Southern charm and an entrepreneurial spirit and your wallet doesn’t cry itself to sleep.”

With a one-bedroom apartment costing about $1,000, Chattanooga’s affordability is undeniably attractive to Gen Zers. Even better, this city’s rent has increased by a mere 0.9% over the past year.

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Des Moines, Iowa

  • Average one-bedroom rent in Des Moines: $796 

The most affordable city Gen Zers are flocking to is Des Moines. Young Americans enjoy the lower housing costs and have more room in their budgets to socialize with friends and enjoy the numerous bars and breweries the city features.

“It’s been voted one of the best places for business and careers,” Marquez said. “The job market is thriving, and the city is pouring money into revitalization projects. There’s a push towards urban living, with affordable condos and apartments sprouting up downtown. The art scene is evolving, and there’s a palpable buzz that’s hard to ignore. Gen Zers are noticing, and they’re loving the low living costs and the high quality of life.” 

As a small metro area with a strong sense of community, Des Moines boasts a median rent of just $957, with rental prices down 0.4% over the past year. 

Rental statistics for each city have been compiled from Apartment List

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