If you've been paying attention to where renters want to live these days, the name Oregon has likely popped up a fair amount. Compared to more expensive West Coast states like California, Oregon stands out as a best place to live for its more affordable rent and cost of living. But there's more to it than that.
Oregon attracts new residents who want access to the great outdoors, which it has in abundance in the Cascade Mountains, the Oregon Coast and its forests, lakes and rivers. In cities like Portland, you also get to cosmopolitan perks like great dining scenes and thriving jobs markets. Because of these benefits and more, Oregon has seen an influx of 435,000 new residents since 2010.
With so many new residents moving in-state, different cities and towns have been generating buzz as the best places to live. Some are classics like Portland and Salem, while others are up-and-coming hidden gems like Bend. Here are some of the best places to live in Oregon for 2022.
Where can you find epic outdoor recreation throughout the year, as well as a world-renowned arts and culture scene? Ashland. This small town in Oregon has an outsized reputation for its cultural offerings. Surrounded by rolling mountains covered in forests, the area is great for outdoor fun in the form of mountain biking, skiing and hiking.
Ashland is conveniently close to Oregon's most famous national park, Crater Lake. The region also has an under-appreciated wine scene that is its own designated American Viticultural Area. To complement the wine, Ashland has a thriving gastronomy scene, with chic coffee houses, high-end dining and craft cocktail bars.
But Ashland's biggest claim to fame is that it's the home of the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Founded in 1935, the festival offers not only Shakespeare classics, but contemporary works as well. The festival draws audiences from around the world and has helped turn Ashland into an oasis for art among the mountains. In addition to its strong performing arts showing, the town has an abundance of galleries and other art exhibitions.
On top of all this, Ashland is the home of Southern Oregon University, which is a top employer for the town. Tourism is a major industry, as well. As a small town that's far from most major metropolitan centers, living in Ashland is one of the more affordable options on this list.
Located west of Portland in the Tualatin Valley, Beaverton is an affluent suburban community that's popular among families and young professionals. While good schools, safe and quiet neighborhoods and an abundance of shopping, dining and entertainment draw families, ambitious young professionals have an eye on the area thanks to its top employer.
Beaverton is the global headquarters of iconic sneaker and sportswear brand Nike. With its splashy main campus located in central Beaverton, working here is a dream for many. But Beaverton's easy access to Portland or nearby Hillsboro, which is home to a major Intel facility, also makes it a great place for commuters to live. While not a highly walkable city, districts like downtown and shopping centers are easy to navigate on foot. Otherwise, everything is just a quick drive away by car.
Unlike some other suburban communities, though, Beaverton is also an ideal place to live for outdoor recreation. There are over a hundred parks dotted throughout the city, offering walking and cycling paths. Neighborhoods have plenty of groomed urban parks with amenities like playgrounds. But for the more outdoorsy set, there are more nature-focused hiking areas like the Cooper Mountain Nature Park, the Tualatin Hills Nature Park or Hyland Forest Park.
While most people would think Portland is the more expensive of the two, living in Beaverton is actually more expensive. As a big commuter city, demand is high for its peaceful suburban neighborhoods and quality housing options.
If you love adventure and spending time outdoors, put Bend on your radar. Located on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, Bend boasts of a significantly smaller population than other major metropolitan centers to the west of the mountains. Combine its close-knit, small-town vibes with its trendy craft brewing scene, hip dining and start-up culture, and it's like a Colorado Rockies town dropped into the Oregon high desert.
Bend's main draw is its outdoor sports scene. From rafting along the Deschutes River to skiing at Mount Bachelor to hiking in the nearby desert or mountains, there are outdoor recreation activities to enjoy year-round. This wealth of outdoor fun also supports a thriving tourism industry, making it a top employer around town. After a long day out on the water or on the trail, Bend's downtown and city center has many great local craft breweries to stop at for a beer and some pub grub.
Bend is also especially popular among young professionals and families, with low crime, safe neighborhoods and plenty of entertainment and things to do. Prior to the pandemic, Bend attracted the attention of tech workers looking for more affordable living outside of Seattle and the Bay Area, as well as better access to nature. Once the pandemic hit, many remote workers moved here for the same reason. This massive influx gave Bend the nickname of a “Zoom town." It's also had the effect of drastically elevating rent and home prices in Bend. While one-bedroom apartments remain reasonable, home and two-bedroom apartments are more on the expensive side.
Located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, Corvallis boasts of some of the most affordable rental rates on this list. This lower cost of living makes it an attractive option for families and young people. Corvallis is actually a very youthful town, being the home of Oregon State University.
Oregon State is Oregon's largest university, with a student body of around 32,000, and it's also a major employer for the town. So, Corvallis is very much a college town, but all the better for it. From sporting events for the university teams to a fun late-night scene, Corvallis' younger population helps keep the city's cultural landscape thriving.
Being situated in the middle of Oregon's most abundant agricultural region, Corvallis reaps the benefits of being surrounded by bountiful farms and wineries. There are tons of great dining options to choose from, and grocery stores are full of fresh produce and local goods. Corvallis is also great for outdoor recreation. The Oregon Coast is just an hour's drive away. The Siuslaw National Forest is also close by, and there are many parks and nature areas for walks, cycling and hiking.
But back to those affordable rates. With one-bedroom apartments only costing an average of $800, Corvallis can fit the budget of all kinds of renters.
Do you love the energy and vibrancy of a college town? How about riverside parks, art and laid-back vibes? Then Eugene is the place for you. This mid-sized town at the southern end of the Willamette Valley is best known for being the home of the University of Oregon. With around 22,000 undergrad and graduate students, this large but not overwhelming student body gives Eugene its distinct college town atmosphere.
There's always something going on, from cool exhibits and performances to lectures and open mics. U of O is also a big sports school, so sports fans can support their favorite local team, the Ducks. Alongside its youthful zest, Eugene is also known as being a base for counterculture hippie types. As such, organic food co-ops, local artisan shops and independent stores are a common sight around town.
Eugene's close-knit and compact urban planning makes it easy to live within a short walk, drive or bike ride from everything from grocery stores to bars and restaurants and more. Several well-manicured parks with cycling and walking paths are along the Willamette River in the center of town, making great destinations for weekend walks, bike rides or disc golf.
The university and most student housing areas are close to downtown, while neighborhoods outside of downtown are great for families. As a college town, apartments and places to rent in Eugene are on the more affordable side. Eugene's location also makes it an ideal jumping-off point for wine tasting in the Willamette Valley or seeking outdoor adventure along the coast or in the Cascades. Both the ocean and the mountains are only about an hour's drive away from town.
From access to culture and entertainment to work opportunities, there are definite benefits to living close to a major city like Portland. But living in an outlying suburb provides the breathing space for a more relaxed quality of life, as well as more affordable rents and cost of living. Gresham is a prime example of how to have the best of both worlds, living close to central Portland while enjoying a laidback, safe suburban lifestyle.
Situated to the west of central Portland, Gresham sits near the entrance to the stunning Columbia River Gorge. With Mount Hood dominating the horizon and an abundance of city parks, being outdoors is a way of life here. It's easy to enjoy strolls and leisure activities in urban parks, but then skiing, hiking and water sports are accessible in the Gorge or at Mount Hood.
Despite having a low Walk Score, Gresham is improving non-auto methods of transportation through options like the Springwater Corridor. This paved, non-auto trail runs for 40 miles from Gresham into central Portland. Gresham also has a bountiful arts and culture scene, dominated by the annual Mount Hood Jazz Festival.
Living in Gresham offers more affordable rental options than nearby Portland. For the cost of a one-bedroom in Portland, here you can afford a two-bedroom. Housing prices are also more reasonable, with a less competitive market.
Living in the heart of Oregon's idyllic Willamette Valley wine country is a dream come true. While the valley is full of many charming small towns, McMinnville is one of the larger ones. It's the largest city in Yamhill County and offers easy access to the surrounding wine regions. With a population of just less than 35,000, it's a cozy community with low crime and friendly neighbors. This makes it an ideal community in which to raise a family.
Whether for leisure or work, the wine industry is the heavy hitter out here. The Willamette Valley is home to over 200 wineries, so if you work in the industry, there are plentiful work opportunities. Apart from the wine industry, agriculture, hospitality and tourism are some of the other major job providers out here.
But McMinnville is also a prime place to live if you're a wine lover. You can spend your spare time driving through scenic vineyards and enjoying flights and tastings. As a base for exploring Oregon's wine country, McMinnville also has a robust dining scene to match, from Latin American cuisine at Pura Vida to tapas at La Rambla. Third Street in the historic downtown is especially popular for dining and shopping.
As a smaller town, living in McMinnville is also more affordable. There's not a big price difference between a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom apartment, making it easy to afford more space.
Portland is definitely Oregon's most well-known city. While it has long had a reputation as a hip, counterculture town that marches to the beat of its own drum, the success of the TV show “Portlandia" raised its awareness in pop culture. And really, who wouldn't love living here?
Sandwiched between the West Hills and the Willamette and Columbia rivers, Portland is a visually stunning city. Its many unique neighborhoods are full of character and charm, as well as historic architecture like Craftsman and Victorian-style homes. Its dining scene is one of the best in the nation, especially for multicultural, international cuisines, craft beer and third-wave coffee. Sports lovers can support top teams like the Portland Trailblazers and the Timbers. And nature can either be found within the city limits in urban parks like Forest Park and Mount Tabor, or just a short drive away in the Cascade Mountains or out on the coast.
One downside to living in Portland is that it's one of the more expensive places to live in Oregon. The median home price is over half a million, and the current market is extremely competitive. Rental rates in Portland are also on the higher side, especially in trendy, central neighborhoods like the Pearl.
But Portland also has tons of great job opportunities in a wide range of industries, from sportswear giant Nike to emerging start-ups. Portland also has the highest minimum wage in Oregon at $14 an hour. So, even though it's a more expensive city, it's not hard to make a good living and have a quality household income to afford the artsy, foodie lifestyle Portland provides.
If you're looking to become a homeowner in Oregon, the state's capital will be one of your best options. The housing market in Salem is not nearly as competitive as in some other cities, and the median home price is more attainable. Outside of homeownership, Salem is also a more affordable city all around. For the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in nearby Portland, here you can afford a more spacious two-bedroom.
But affordability is far from being Salem's only attribute. Oregon's capital city has a lot to offer its residents. As the home of Oregon State Hospital and Salem Health Hospital, healthcare is a major industry. Since the Capitol is also located here, Salem is the political hub of the state, providing jobs and employment through its various sectors. With low crime, highly-involved neighborhood associations and well-ranked schools, many families choose to live in Salem both for its family-friendly amenities and work opportunities.
It's easy to get outside for some fresh air at urban parks like the Riverfront City Park, which is also home to the Gilbert House Children's Museum. Need to get out into the country? Salem is smack-dab in the middle of wine country, with vineyards and scenic nature reserves scattered all around. It is also awash in history, art and culture, from museums like the Hallie Ford Museum of Art to heritage centers and the historic downtown. Salem is also close to the Enchanted Forest, a popular fairy tale amusement park that's a staple of many an Oregonian childhood.
If you want to live close to Portland but in an affordable, family-friendly suburban atmosphere, Tigard is one of your best bets. Situated to the south of Portland along Interstate-5, it's easy to drive into the city for work or fun, but home is not too far away. Tigard prides itself on being a family-focused place to live and work. Annual festivals like the Tigard Family Festival celebrate the town and its residents, and there's always something fun to do no matter what time of year it is.
With a high median household income, the area is also fairly affluent. Its neighborhoods are safe and quiet, with access to community parks and urban green areas like Cook Park. Tigard's location in the Tualatin Valley also offers outdoor recreation like golf, kayaking on the Tualatin River and strolling or cycling along the Fanno Creek Trail.
Come summer, Tigard's annual Festival of Balloons sees tons of hot air balloons fill the sky over the city. And if you enjoy retail therapy, get those wallets ready. Tigard is a major shopping destination. Washington Square and Bridgeport Village are premier retail centers, with tons of shopping and dining options.
Living in Tigard has become more expensive over the years as Portland residents seek more space and move out of the city center. But you can still get plenty of bang for your buck, with spacious, well-appointed apartments and housing options on the market.
No matter what kind of place you want to live in, Oregon's diverse cities and landscapes offer broad appeal to all renters. Whether you want a big city or a small town, close to mountains or close to the beach or in a more affordable place versus an expensive metropolis, you can find plenty of quality options for apartments for rent in Oregon.