Safest and Most Affordable Cities in the US

Updated: February 28, 2024

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Safety and affordability are crucial factors for most people when choosing a place to live. To uncover the most affordable and safest small and mid-to-large cities in the U.S., MoneyGeek analyzed cost data from the Census Bureau's one-year American Community Survey and MIT's Living Wage Calculator, focusing on the top cities from our safest small and mid-to-large city studies.

KEY FINDINGS
  • Georgia is home to the safest and most affordable small cities in the U.S., with Roswell and Johns Creek ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Roswell stands out with the third-highest, five-year income growth among small cities, while Johns Creek has low mortgage and food costs relative to income, with both costs ranking in the top five.

  • Most of the safest and most affordable large cities are in the West. This region has 11 of the 15 most affordable and safest cities, with Westminster, Colorado; Surprise, Arizona; and Thornton, Colorado, taking the top three spots.

  • California cities have some of the lowest food costs relative to income in both small and larger cities. In small cities like San Ramon and Pleasanton, the ratio of monthly food costs to income falls below 8%. Larger cities like Fremont and Santa Clara also have low food cost ratios, with less than 9% of monthly income spent on food.

15 Best Small Cities for Safety and Affordability

Southern cities prominently feature on the list of the most affordable and safest cities for populations below 100,000, taking nine of the top 15 spots. Roswell, Georgia, ranked No. 1, experiencing a 57% increase in income over five years — the third-highest increase of small cities analyzed. It also had the ninth-lowest monthly food costs at an average cost of 9% of monthly income.

Johns Creek, Georgia, the No. 2 in our overall rankings, had the third-lowest mortgage cost proportion of household income at 20% and the fourth-lowest monthly food costs proportion at 8%. Other Southern cities in the top 15 include Edmond, Oklahoma; Mansfield, Texas; and North Port, Florida, all with five-year income increases of over 34%.

15 Most Affordable and Safe Small Cities

City
Final Score
5-Year Income % Change
Monthly Mortgage as a % of Income
Monthly Food Costs as a % of Income

1.

Roswell, GA

100

57.2%

22.2%

8.9%

2.

Johns Creek, GA

99

35.0%

20.5%

7.8%

3.

Edmond, OK

89

47.9%

22.7%

11.2%

4.

Mansfield, TX

88

34.7%

24.2%

9.7%

5.

San Mateo, CA

87

47.4%

28.9%

8.7%

6.

Milpitas, CA

85

32.7%

26.1%

8.1%

7.

North Port, FL

80

46.4%

21.2%

14.7%

8.

O'Fallon, MO

77

22.6%

19.1%

11.2%

15 Best Mid-to-Large Cities for Safety and Affordability

Among the safest cities with populations over 100,000, the Western U.S. is home to 11 of the 15 most affordable. Westminster, Colorado, is the most affordable and safest large city, with a five-year income change of 58% — the second highest in our study. Following closely are Surprise, Arizona; Thornton, Colorado; and Arvada, Colorado, each experiencing over 35% income growth and mortgage costs below 26% of household income.

The Midwest also has its share of affordable, safe cities, with Joliet, Illinois; Carmel, Indiana; Overland Park, Kansas; and Fishers, Indiana, making the top 15. These cities offer relatively low monthly costs, with mortgage cost proportions of household income below 26% and monthly food costs making up less than 14% of monthly income.

15 Most Affordable and Safe Mid-to-Large Cities

City, State
Final Score
5-Year Income % Change
Monthly Mortgage as a % of Income
Monthly Food Costs as a % of Income

1.

Westminster, CO

100

58.1%

24.6%

13.6%

2.

Surprise, AZ

98

47.1%

21.0%

14.2%

3.

Thornton, CO

96

36.4%

24.7%

13.1%

4.

Arvada, CO

96

34.6%

25.8%

12.5%

5.

Joliet, IL

90

32.3%

25.1%

13.6%

6.

Carmel, IN

89

18.6%

20.2%

9.1%

7.

Bellevue, WA

88

26.9%

27.6%

9.0%

8.

Rio Rancho, NM

87

48.9%

21.0%

16.2%

5 Safest Small and Large Cities With the Lowest Food Costs

California city residents enjoy some of the most affordable monthly food costs in proportion to total monthly income among the safest cities analyzed. Four of the top five small cities with the lowest proportionate monthly food costs are in California: San Ramon, Pleasanton, Palo Alto and Milpitas, each with ratios below 8%. Among larger cities, Fremont and Santa Clara, California, are among the top five, with monthly food costs comprising less than 9% of total monthly income.


california icon
Small Cities With the Lowest Food Costs
1. San Ramon, CA
2. Pleasanton, CA
3. Palo Alto, CA
4. Johns Creek, GA
5. Milpitas, CA
illinois icon
Mid-to-Large Cities With the Lowest Food Costs
1. Naperville, IL
2. Fremont, CA
3. Santa Clara, CA
4. Bellevue, WA
5. Carmel, IN

Insurance Tips for Homeowners in New Cities

When considering a move to a new city, it's essential to factor in homeowners insurance costs alongside food and mortgage expenses. Homeowners can estimate potential homeowner insurance costs by using a home insurance cost calculator to see what they can expect to pay based on their home's location, value and other factors.

To find the best homeowners insurance, start by assessing your specific needs. Factors such as location, home value and personal assets play a significant role in determining the level of coverage you require. Look for a provider that balances cost, coverage and customer service effectively. If budget is a concern, there are reputable options for cheap homeowners insurance that still offer substantial protection without straining your finances.

Methodology

To identify the most affordable and safest cities in the U.S., MoneyGeek began by examining both small and mid-to-large cities from our 2024 safest cities analysis. We then matched these cities with affordability metrics, focusing on the top 100 cities with the highest Safest City core. Next, we ranked these cities based on weighted average affordability metrics, including:

  • Five-year percentage change in income: This is the percentage change in median household income from 2017 to 2022. This data is sourced from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS).
  • Monthly mortgage cost as a percentage of household income: The estimated monthly median housing costs for owner-occupied housing units with a mortgage per city divided by median household income per city. This data is also sourced from the ACS.
  • Monthly food costs as a percentage of household income: This data is sourced from MIT's Living Wage Calculator and is for 2022.

Each measure was given a full weight. Also, please note that the Safest City Score was the metric computed in our previous analysis and is a measure of safety alone. This is different from the Safety and Affordability final score used in this analysis.

Full Dataset

Our data uncovers key trends in the affordability and safety of small to large cities across the country. We analyzed the top 100 safest small cities and 100 safest mid-to-large cities to find their income growth, food costs and mortgage costs. View the data that shaped our final rankings below.

About Anja Solum, CEPF


Anja Solum, CEPF headshot

Anja Solum is a certified educator in personal finance and the Data Journalism Manager at MoneyGeek. For over six years, she has produced data analyses and studies for agency and in-house teams across multiple verticals.

Solum holds a bachelor's degree in communication arts from Florida International University. She's passionate about using data to tell compelling, informed stories that empower readers.


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