When a city has been named the top major city in the United States for six years in a row, you know it's doing something right. For six years running, Chicago has been voted the best big city in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler readers, and it's easy to see why. Located on scenic Lake Michigan, this cosmopolitan city is a cultural hotbed for dining, entertainment and art.
Sports lovers can cheer on the Chicago Bears or the Cubs, outdoor lovers can explore city parks or the Lake Michigan shorefront and it has a thriving economy and jobs market.
However, as with many major U.S. cities, living here is on the expensive side, especially when it comes to housing. But don't count the Windy City out just because the average rent in Chicago is higher. Let's dive into what you can expect to pay for rent in this popular big city.
Compared to the national median rent of $1,983, rents in Chicago are a bit pricey. The median rent in the Windy City is $2,460, which is 1.09 percent less than last year. Multi-bedroom units are the most costly, with two bedrooms averaging $2,344 per month and $2,162 for a three-bedroom. Prices for studios and one-bedroom units are a bit more reasonable at $1,382 for a studio and $1,925 for a one-bedroom.
Overall housing prices are 48.9 percent higher than the national average. This is a slight decrease of 5.1 percent from the previous year when housing costs were 54 percent higher than the national average.
The good news is that while housing in Chicago is expensive, it's the highest cost of living expense. Other cost of living indexes like food costs and utilities are closer to the national average, or even lower than it.
Let's take a closer look at how Chicago's different cost of living areas compare to the national average:
Overall, though most cost of living categories in Chicago exceed the national average, utilities and miscellaneous goods and services are the exceptions. After housing, transportation is the second most expensive cost, followed by food costs.
Officially, Chicago neighborhoods are called “community areas", and renters have a whopping 77 different ones to choose from. Living in the city center close to Lake Michigan keeps you at the heart of the Chicago action, with great dining, shopping, entertainment and city and lake views. However, these are generally the most expensive areas to live in. Heading further out into the surrounding metro areas, you'll find more affordable rents as well as family-friendly neighborhoods with close-knit communities, good schools and fast and easy access to central Chicago, thanks to the Chicago Transit Authority's efficient buses and trains.
To give you a good overview of how rents vary across the Chicago area, the following sections break down the median rental rates of Chicago's most expensive and least expensive neighborhoods.
With the exception of East Hyde Park, most of Chicago's most affluent and expensive neighborhoods are centrally located around downtown. While rental rates may be high, living in high-end and trendy areas like Goose Island, The Loop and Downtown come with perks.
Living in the heart of the city means being within walking distance of some of the city's best dining, theaters and entertainment, museums and picturesque parks like Millennium Park. Rental options here are primarily luxe, modern apartments in newer complexes.
If you'd like to live close to downtown but not in the most central areas, Near West End is the way to go. Situated west of the downtown core, this area offers renters a mix of newer apartment buildings or older, established units. Located south down the Lake Michigan shoreline, East Hyde Park offers a more laidback, residential vibe that's popular with young professionals on a budget and families. East Hyde Park is also the only neighborhood in the top five most expensive that's seen rates fall over the past year.
If the high prices of Chicago's most expensive neighborhoods and the city's overall median rent gave you pause, don't worry. Chicago has many other, more reasonable areas to choose from as well. In fact, rental rates have actually gone down over the past year in four out of five of Chicago's least expensive neighborhoods.
In the five least expensive neighborhoods in Chicago, renters will find median rents under $1,000 a month. The Chatham, East Chatham, Washington Park and Far Southeast Side neighborhoods are located south of the city center, while East Ukrainian Village is situated to the northwest.
Rental options in these areas mainly consist of older, historic apartment complexes and buildings, with some cozy, single-family residences as well. While more spread out, major transportation arteries like I-90 and I-290 make it easy to get into town for work or fun. With their affordable rents and access to schools, many of Chicago's more affordable districts are popular with families. Many also boast diverse dining options, fun shopping and multicultural communities.
Now that you've seen what rental rates are like in the most expensive and least expensive neighborhoods in Chicago, let's look at a more comprehensive, thorough listing that includes some mid-range prices and neighborhoods.
|Neighborhood||Median Rent||Rent YoY Change|
|East Hyde Park||$2,812||10.63%|
|East Ukrainian Village||$975||N/A|
|Far North Side||$1,565||5.66%|
|Far Southeast Side||$885||-1.72%|
|Far Southwest Side||$1,072||N/A|
|Greater Grand Crossing||$1,106||N/A|
|Hyde Park Kenwood Historic District||$2,126||7.62%|
|Lower West Side||$1,700||6.25%|
|Near West Side||$2,841||10.47%|
|West Rogers Park||$1,288||26.47%|
Even if most cost of living categories in Chicago fit your budget, housing usually takes the biggest chunk of your monthly expenses. That's why experts recommend that you only spend around 30 percent of your gross income each month on rent or housing costs like mortgages. Considering Chicago's high median rents, you may be wondering if you can afford to live comfortably here. Let's break down the figures.
With a median rent of $2,460, you need to make $8,200 each month or $98,400 annually to follow the 30 percent rule.
Unsure what you can afford to pay in rent based on income and location? Use our rent calculator to crunch some numbers and figure out what fits your budget.
While Chicago may be a pricey city, its wide range of neighborhoods and rental rates means that most renters can find something to fit their budget and lifestyle. Then, you can take advantage of everything the Windy City has to offer, from incredible pizza to world-class jazz.