As any city-based 20something knows, living alone is a luxury afforded to a very lucky few. Unless your father invented the Toaster Strudel or you’ve somehow managed to climb the corporate ladder in record time, most of us are stuck only dreaming of the possibility of living alone (I’d rather be rotting in my own filth in a bedroom-living room-kitchen-bathroom-in-one than picking up my roommate’s empty yogurt cup one more time.)
While our generation might be facing some of the heaviest rental burdens in history, that’s not dissuading autonomous young professionals from living alone in some parts of the nation. Lower housing costs, rising salaries and plenty of job opportunities allow for greater financial freedom. Not every city offers this balance, but for those craving some personal space and seeking a change of scenery, it’s all about knowing where to look.
Almost 9 percent of millennials live alone in the U.S., according to a recent Zillow study. While the national percentage is on a decade-long decline, leading more millennials to move back in with their parents or shack up with roommates, consider the top five housing markets where millennials continue to rent or own unaccompanied.
1. Richmond, VA
Richmond is the top city for independent millennials, with 15 percent of 22- to 34-year-olds renting or living on their own. The median income for millennials in this city is $49,500. At this income, 15.2 percent of local rental inventory is considered affordable. Richmond’s strong annual employment growth of 3.6 percent per year helps create a prosperous environment for those entering the workforce.
2. Pittsburgh, PA
With a median salary of $40,000 per year, 14.3 percent of Pittsburgh millennials rent or own solo. Luckily for young professionals, 17.2 percent of Pittsburgh rental homes are affordable on the median millennial salary. Keep in mind, though, Pittsburgh’s employment growth is lagging at 0.2 percent.
3. Buffalo, NY
The median salary for Buffalo millennials is also $40,000 per year, but 14.2 percent opt to live alone. Although 13.5 percent of the local housing market is affordable for millennials, the local economy offers better employment growth than Pittsburgh at 0.6 percent annually.
4. Columbus, OH
At number 4, 14 percent of Columbus millennials live independently, holding a median income of $38,800 per year, making 11.6 percent of homes for rent in Columbus affordable. The city holds strong employment growth of 2.1 percent.
5. Virginia Beach, VA
The fifth best city for millennials to live alone is Virginia Beach, where 13.9 percent of live alone. These millennials share a higher median income of $50,000 per year, making 17.6 percent of Virginia Beach rentals affordable. Further, Virginia Beach holds moderate annual employment growth of 1 percent.
While there’s no shame in splitting housing costs with friends or family, millennials who crave a little more independence will continue having a hard time in the cities like Los Angeles, San Jose, Miami and New York City. Just 8.1 percent of Los Angeles millennials making a median income of $50,000 per year live alone, and only 7.8 percent of rentals are affordable on such wages. In San Jose, where jobs are up an impressive 4.1 percent in the last year, only 6.5 percent of millennials live alone due to high housing costs.
The decision to live alone can be a tough one, and a big financial risk, but if you know where to look, you’ll be successfully lounging pantsless in your own home in no time.