Chicago isn't the cheapest place to live. The cost of living is around 12% higher than the Illinois average, buying a home will cost you 29% more than it would elsewhere in the state, and rental accommodation will cost you 7% more. When you factor in the restaurant tax, the grocery sales tax, the combined local and state sales tax, and, of course, the fact it has the second-highest property tax in the United States, it's clear that even the frugal will find the city a strain on their wallets. Fortunately, some of its neighborhoods are a little cheaper than others. If you want to save as much of your paycheck as possible, you'll not want to miss these 10 cheapest places to live in Chicago.
If you're on a tiny budget but dream of getting onto the property ladder, you might want to consider Clearing. With a good range of low-cost housing options to choose between, you shouldn't have too many problems in finding something for around $174,810. If you'd prefer to keep on renting for now, you'll find no shortage of options at a great price. The median income is just a fraction under the US median at $61,174, but considering how little you'll be spending on accommodation, you should still find yourself with plenty of disposable income after the bills have been paid.
9. Mount Greenwood
With a median home price of $224,582 and a median income of $91,682, Mount Greenwood has one of the best home price-to-income indexes in Chicago. There are more benefits to living here than small bills and plenty of spending power though. Crime is low, as is the unemployment rate, and there's a great selection of parks and amenities to enjoy.
8. Rogers Park
Rogers Park is home to Loyola University, and like most student-centric neighborhoods, it's on the cheap side. You'll find plenty of low-cost accommodation around, plus a good number of very affordable places to eat and drink. As a few extra perks of living here, you'll get a lovely lakeside location and a diverse, friendly community to get to know.
7. Garfield Ridge
Usually, areas with low home prices also have low incomes. Not so Garfield Ridge. Here, you can pick up a single-family home for just $197,874, considerably below the national average. And yet most households are earning above the US median at $69,182. It's not just its affordability that makes it attractive. Compared to the rest of Chicago, Garfield Ridge is very safe, with a low crime rate and one of the city's most active neighborhood watch groups. There's a good selection of shops and local businesses, and the overall vibe is pleasant and community-minded.
6. Washington Heights
Washington Heights is a diverse, friendly neighborhood with plenty to say for itself. The historic, tree-lined streets boast some beautiful homes, along with plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes. For the outdoor inclined, there are a few nice parks and plenty of bike paths to enjoy. The schools serving the neighborhood are excellent, making it a great choice for families. And then, of course, there's the affordable real estate. If you choose to buy a property, you can expect to pick up a very decent family home for a smidge above $150k. Rent instead, and it'll set you back just $1,040 per month.
5. Hyde Park
Back in 2017, Only in Your State named Hyde Park as one of the cheapest places to live in Chigaco. 4 years later, very little has changed. House prices are still low, rental apartments can be had for little more than a song, and the neighborhood has a great range of budget bistros and cafes to enjoy. As home to the University of Chicago, it's understandably a popular place for students. Fortunately, the community is big and diverse enough to make it an attractive proposition to all age groups.
4. East Chicago
If you're prepared to live just a little outside the city limits, you'll find East Chicago a very affordable option, at least according to Niche, who's named it the cheapest Chicago suburb for 2021. The median home value is a tiny $74,500. the average cost of renting an apartment is equally small at just $686 per month. Unfortunately, the low prices don't come without a flipside. A lot of its neighborhoods are less up and coming than down and out; the crime is high, and the schools are a long way away from respectable. Still, at least it's cheap.
If you like cheap, you're going to love Pullman. Find a family home you like in the neighborhood, and it's yours for just a fraction over $100k. Find a rental property you like the look of, and you'll have no problem keeping up with the rent. But all of this comes with a downside. For a start, the crime in the neighborhood is appalling - according to Area Vibes, the overall crime rate is 155% higher than the national average. Even more concerningly, the violent crime rate is a giant 234% higher than average. That's a lot of crime. Then there's the fact most households aren't earning much more than $38,397. There's also the fact that the unemployment rate is a giant 13.0 percent. So, no, you won't be paying much for your mortgage. Whether or not that compensates for the less desirable aspects of the neighborhood, we'll leave you to decide.
If the thought of snapping up a house for just $140,800 gets you excited, you might want to set your sights on Hegewisch. Despite the low cost of living, it's by no means a poor area - according to Home Snacks, the median income is a very respectable $61,614.
Despite its excellent location near the lake, the north Chicago district of Edgewater remains wonderfully affordable. Rents are low, and the cost of buying a property won't leave you holding your head in despair. Even without the low living costs, the neighborhood would still be a delight. Crime is on the low side, and the historic streets are blessed with some of the loveliest buildings in Chicago. There's a great combo of high-end restaurants and low-cost eateries to keep you in food and drink, while its situation off the Red Line puts you in easy reach of the rest of the city.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson