- Cost of living is a big part of deciding where to live.
- The novel coronavirus outbreak has some Americans rethinking residing in big cities.
- Using data from the Census Bureau, we found the small town in each state with the highest share of households paying an affordable share of their incomes on housing.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As many Americans are working from their homes during the novel coronavirus outbreak or have temporarily relocated out of their city apartments, some might reconsider living in densely-populated and expensive cities after the pandemic.
According to a Harris Poll survey reported by Axios, about one-third of Americans are thinking about moving to less dense areas as a response to the coronavirus.
Cost of living is a big part of deciding where to live, and housing affordability is one of the major factors driving how expensive different places are.
Using data from the Census Bureau’s 2014-2018 American Community Survey, we found the small town in each state with the highest share of households paying affordable housing costs.
For our universe of small towns, we took places as defined by the Census Bureau that had populations between 5,000 and 20,000 people, excluding college campuses and military bases. To determine housing affordability, we looked at the share of households in each of those towns paying less than 30% of their household income on housing costs, a fairly common cutoff for whether or not housing is within a family’s means.
The American Community Survey includes data for three types of households — homeowners with a mortgage, homeowners without a mortgage, and renters. For our affordability measurement, we took the average of the shares of each of those household types paying less than 30% on housing, weighted by the number of each type of household in each town.
It is important to note these towns aren’t necessarily the places with the least expensive housing, just the places where the biggest share of families fall under our affordability threshold. This means that towns with relatively expensive homes but also high incomes can still have most residents paying an affordable share of that income on their housing.
For instance, Short Hills is the most affordable small town in New Jersey, even though Short Hills is the sixth richest place in America, according to Bloomberg. According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in Short Hills from 2014-2018 was over $250,000, and a large share of residents in the town spend 30% or less of their income toward housing costs.
Here’s the most affordable small town in every state:
84.56% of homes are affordable.
Located 15 miles south of the Tennessee border, Harvest is part of Madison County and Huntsville, Alabama, where several aerospace companies operate, including NASA and Boeing. Boeing, for example, has invested $40 million in its Huntsville operation for military weapons research. The small town has a population size of roughly 5,700, and Niche ranked Harvest the third best place in Alabama to buy a house.
78.69% of homes are affordable.
Sterling is perfect for those who enjoy the outdoors. According to Travel Alaska, the small town is near Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which is filled with campsites, rivers, and trails to explore. There is also fishing and plenty of wildlife to see. Although the town has affordable homes, Best Places writes the cost of living is about 18% higher than the national average.
Arizona: Corona de Tucson
86.44% of homes are affordable.
Located 23 miles away from the Santa Rita Mountains, Corona de Tucson offers many hiking trails nearby. According to Niche, it is the best suburb in the state to buy a home. It also ranks highly in terms of its public schools and family friendliness on Niche.
Arkansas: Hot Springs Village
79.19% of homes are affordable.
Hot Springs Village is a private town surrounded by lakes, making it great for people who want to live close to water or enjoy fishing. The town with nearly 15,000 people also offers many sporting activities, including nine golf courses and 13 tennis courts.
California: Los Altos Hill
74.17% of homes are affordable.
Located in Santa Clara, Los Altos Hill has plenty of parks and trails. The town usually has plenty of activities to do year-round, such as the Los Altos Hill run or annual town picnic. On Niche, the small town is the seventh best suburb in California to raise a family.
Colorado: Roxborough Park
81.34% of homes are affordable.
With nearly 9,500 residents, Roxborough Park is located in Douglas County and surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. The town has plenty of trails to explore. According to Census data, the majority of homes in the town are owner-occupied rather than rented, and the median gross rent from 2014-2018 was $2,013.
Connecticut: Sherwood Manor
71.96% of homes are affordable.
The town is within the northern part of Hartford County, Connecticut. With 5,438 people, 83.4% of the homes are owner-occupied in the small town with a median value of $195,100, according to Census data. The town is a short drive away from Six Flags, Springfield Museums, and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden.
Florida: St. Augustine South
80.03% of homes are affordable.
Located in St. John’s County and next to the Matanzas River, St. Augustine South is close to many outdoor activities. According to Niche, it is ranked the seventh best suburb in Florida to buy a home. The town is a 13-minute drive from St. Augustine Beach, Anastasia State Park, and St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
Georgia: Holly Springs
83.24% of homes are affordable.
This small town in Georgia is said to be “named after a spring surrounded by holly trees,” according to New Georgia Encyclopedia and has plenty of national forests and parks to visit nearby. Holly Springs, which is 37 miles away from Atlanta, was named the second safest town in Georgia by the National Council for Home and Safety Security.
69.69% of homes are affordable.
Waihee-Waiehu is a small beachfront community on the island of Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island. Maui’s natural beauty is stunning, but Waihee-Waiehu also offers a golf course, surfing, and whale watching.
78.50% of homes are affordable.
Surrounded by hills and mountains, Ammon is a small agricultural town in Idaho. Although Ammon is considered a small town, it is rapidly growing its population. The city credits its growth to “open space for affordable residential housing and the city’s hometown lifestyle, as well as its near proximity to the urban amenities and job market in Idaho Falls,” according to its website.
Illinois: Hampshire Village
83.67% of homes are affordable.
Hampshire Village, originally named Henpeck according to the town’s website, relocated closer to the Chicago-Pacific railroad and was officially incorporated in 1876. The town is part of Kane County, Illinois, which has 51 registered historic places and 76 forests preserved.
85.39% of homes are affordable.
Just outside Indianapolis, McCordsville is a growing town with several local establishments like Trax BBQ and Scarlet Lane Brewing Company. It was founded in 1865 and named after the McCord family.
84.19% of homes are affordable.
Asbury was settled back in the 1830s by Methodists. It was named after a British-born bishop named Francis Asbury. Today, most residents don’t work in town, but commute to nearby Dubuque or Peosta, Iowa. The town’s motto is “You’re home.”
Kansas: Park City
84.47% of homes are affordable.
Park City is part of Sedgwick County, Kansas. According to the county’s website, while many people work in the town, plenty of residents commute to work in larger cities nearby, such as Wichita. The small town of 7,885 people is about seven miles away from Wichita State University. Some notable places in Park City include the 81 Speedway and Park City BMX tracks.
88.99% of homes are affordable.
Located in northern Boone County, Kentucky, this small town is close to the Ohio River. It ranks highly in different categories on Niche including the seventh best place to buy a house and eighth place to raise a family in Kentucky.
87.31% of homes are affordable.
According to Best Places to Live, the small town of Prien is an industrial town that recently experienced job growth, and the cost of living is 6.3% less than the US average. With over 93% of homes owner-occupied and a median home-value close to $213,000, Niche ranks it the top place to buy a home in Louisiana.
Maine: North Windham
76.65% of homes are affordable.
North Windham is part of Windham, Maine in Cumberland County, the largest county in Maine. The town is a 7-minute drive from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and a 3-minute drive from the outdoor recreational area Seacoast Adventure.
86.80% of homes are affordable.
Poolesville was named after two brothers, John Poole Sr. and Joseph Poole Sr., who owned land in the area. Until 2010, however, its official name was left as “The Commissioners of Poolesville” due to a clerical error. Its motto is “Small town character, down home charm.”
Massachusetts: Mansfield Center
74.89% of homes are affordable.
Mansfield Center is a small town with a population of 7,892. The town has a remarkably low crime rate, with a 1 in 101 chance of being the victim of a crime — that’s 61% lower than the US average.
88.52% of homes are affordable.
Freeland was home to the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomi tribes before the arrival of European settlers in the early 19th century. The town is named after Mammy Freeland, who was the owner of a popular tavern that served local lumberjacks in the mid 1800s.
Minnesota: East Bethel
86.84% of homes are affordable.
The town includes the Sandhill Crane State Natural Area nature preserve, and it is also close to a wildlife management place, lakes, and a regional park. The cost of living in East Bethel is more expensive than surrounding towns, 6% higher than the state average.
83.37% of homes are affordable.
This small rural town is home to about 6,000 residents. Based on the town’s website, their motto is “where family comes first and we love every second.” Residents can walk along the 43.6-mile Tanglefoot trail which includes the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and different counties. The trail’s website says it is a great place to enjoy the slow pace of Mississippi small towns.
Missouri: Dardenne Prairie
87.49% of homes are affordable.
Dardenne Prairie, in St. Charles County, is said to have gotten its name from the French “terre d’Inde,” or “land of India.” Others say the town is named after Toussaint Dardenne, an early pioneer of the Mississippi Valley. However, no records show that the pioneer ever explored St. Charles County. A third theory states that the French explorers who did settle the area named it after the Ardennes forest (“d’ardenne” in French). While no one knows the reason any longer, the name has stayed ever since.
Montana: Helena Valley West Central
79.92% of homes are affordable.
Helena Valley West Central is part of the much larger city of Helena, but offers more affordability and quieter surroundings. One of the benefits of living in Helena Valley West Central is the commute time to downtown Helena: 16.4 minutes on average.
80.52% of homes are affordable.
Located about 20 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, the small town of Gretna is home to 5,037 residents and part of Sarpy County. According to the town’s website, the town got its name from “Scotland’s Gretna Green, the ancestral county of some of the earliest settlers” and was incorporated in 1889 after the old Forest City lost its growth.
Nevada: Spring Creek
86.81% of homes are affordable.
Spring Creek is situated between the Elko Hills to the northwest, and the Ruby Mountains to the southeast. Most residents of Spring Creek commute to nearby Elko, which has about 20,000 residents, compared to Spring Creek’s 13,805.
New Hampshire: Hampton
73.41% of homes are affordable.
Located beside the Atlantic Ocean, Hampton is a great small town for those who like beaches and a view of water outside their window. People can live in one of the homes in in Hampton Beach Village District or visit Hampton Beach State Park, which Reader’s Digest named the best state park in the New Hampshire. Hampton was one of the first four towns in the state to be established and was first called Winnacunnet, according to the town’s history on New Hampshire Employment Security.
New Jersey: Short Hills
75.78% of homes are affordable.
Located in Essex County, Short Hills is the third best place in New Jersey to raise a family, according to Niche. It is good for people who want to commute to the city — only 21 miles away from Manhattan, New York.
New Mexico: White Rock
87.96% of homes are affordable.
White Rock, New Mexico has 5,809 residents and is next to multiple mountains, Santa Fe National Forest, and the Rio Grande. It is less than 9 miles away from Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was used in World War II for the Manhattan Project. Niche ranked the town the best suburb to buy a house in the state.
New York: Big Flats
82.65% of homes are affordable.
Big Flats is in western New York, near the Pennsylvania border. It boasts nearby national forests, is close to the city of Elmira, and is only a short drive away from New York’s Finger Lakes.
North Carolina: Wesley Chapel
85.05% of homes are affordable.
This small town in North Carolina was officially incorporated as a village in 1998 but has existed as a community since the 1800s, according to real-estate site Carolina Small Town Living. Niche ranks the small town as the sixth best place to live in Union County, North Carolina.
North Dakota: Valley City
78.58% of homes are affordable.
Valley City is also known as the “City of Bridges” due to its many railroad bridges that span the Sheyenne River. The town has a number of tourist attractions, including a scenic bridge tour, and an exhibit on railroad history at the Rosebud Visitor Center.
Ohio: Delhi Hills
85.36% of homes are affordable.
Delhi Hills is just outside of Cincinnati, on a bluff near the Ohio river. Delhi Hills’ main attraction is Delhi Pike, a popular strip of highway lined with fast food eateries and stores like KFC, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Kroger.
81.18% of homes are affordable.
The first baby born in Tuttle, in 1902, was Tuttle Meder, named not only after the town, but after its namesake, James H. Tuttle, a local rancher who was one of the town’s founders. It maintained a low population for decades, until more residents settled there and brought the population up to its current number of 6,982.
Oregon: Bull Mountain
77.99% of homes are affordable.
Bull Mountain got its name from the hill it was founded on, in northwest Oregon. The town is still unincorporated, despite having a population of 9,591. A nearby town, Tigard, tried to annex Bull Mountain under its own city limits, but Bull Mountain’s residents protested, putting a stop to the annexation.
81.52% of homes are affordable.
Shanor-Northvue is part of Butler County, Pennsylvania. Residents can visit Clearview Mall and there are plenty of options for food along the Pennsylvania Route highway. People can attend the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival to celebrate where the car was created.
Rhode Island: Cumberland Hill
74.11% of homes are affordable.
Cumberland Hill is a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island’s capital. The town is a residential community mostly made up of families. The public schools are highly rated, according to Niche.
South Carolina: Tega Cay
83.34% of homes are affordable.
The city of Tega Cay is located on Lake Wylie, between Charlotte, North Carolina and Rock Hill, South Carolina. And thanks to its location, there are plenty of activities for residents and visitors alike — parks, playgrounds, boating, golf, and swimming, to name a few.
South Dakota: Harrisburg
86.21% of homes are affordable.
Harrisburg, a suburb of Sioux Falls, is an active community with several attractions. Locals enjoy Lake Alvin Recreation Area, which offers beaches, fishing, and boating. Good Earth State park has two miles of trails for anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors.
83.71% of homes are affordable.
The town of Atoka has seen growth in recent years, with a current population of 9,139. People can commute to Memphis with a 36-minute drive from Atoka. According to the town’s website, Bloomberg Businessweek in 2010 named the small town “Tennessee’s Best Affordable Suburb based on our low property taxes, excellent schools and affordable home prices.”
Texas: Bridge City
83.24% of homes are affordable.
Bridge City, with a population of 8,004, is close to many bodies of water, including the Gulf of Mexico, Neches River, and Cow Bayou. People can get to Bridge City from nearby Port Arthur via the Rainbow Bridge, one of the tallest bridges in Texas.
Utah: West Point
87.16% of homes are affordable.
Located about 30 miles away from Salt Lake City, West Point is a rural small town with close to 10,500 residents. It is five miles away from the Hill Air Force Base and close to Farmington Bay.
66.82% of homes are affordable.
Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, is the least populous state capital in the United States, with only 7,547 residents. Its small population doesn’t prevent it from having a capital city’s personality, with its stately buildings and lively downtown.
Virginia: Independent Hill
85.02% of homes are affordable.
About 9,500 people live in Independent Hill, which is located next to State Route 234 and a short drive to larger cities in Virginia. The rural small town has many parks to visit, such as Prince William Forest Park.
83.88% of homes are affordable.
A 30-minute drive away from Seattle, Duvall is named after James Duvall who owned the area before selling it to Cherry Valley Town Site Company. The town has a historical society to help preserve its history, such as opening Dougherty Farmstead, one of the oldest buildings in Snoqualmie River Valley, to visitors.
West Virginia: Brookhaven
84.09% of homes are affordable.
Niche ranks this small town in Northern West Virginia as the fifth best place to raise a family in West Virginia. Most people in the town own their homes and monthly median rent is less than the national average according to figures on Niche.
Wisconsin: Rib Mountain
84.52% of homes are affordable.
The town, named after nearby Rib Mountain, has plenty of nature and trails for people who enjoy the outdoors and is also home to the largest retail center in North-central Wisconsin. The town’s motto on their website is “Where nature, family, and sport come together.”
83.80% of homes are affordable.
Located at the bottom of the state, Ranchettes has a population of 6,097. The small town is part of Laramie County, known for having the first woman to vote in a general election in the United States.