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Housing expenses often take up the largest share of people’s monthly budgets, so if you can’t find affordable housing, it can make everything more difficult. People who live in densely populated areas know this all too well and understand that high rent prices are just a part of living where they want to be (I’m looking at you, New York and San Francisco).

If you want to spend as little of your paycheck on rent as possible without living in a rural area, you have plenty of options. RealtyTrac, a company that analyzes the U.S. housing market, looked at rental and income data in the 100 most populated counties in the U.S. to come up with a list of the most affordable counties for renters. RealtyTrac used fair market rental rates, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for three-bedroom properties and compared that to median income data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The counties include urban and suburban areas of some of the most populated cities in the country.

Tazewell County, Illinois
Metropolitan Statistical Area: Peoria
2015 percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 6.5%

Warren County, Ohio
Metro area: Cincinnati
Percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 4.5%

Columbia County, Georgia
Metro area: Augusta
Percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 5.3%

Ascension Parish, Louisiana
Metro area: Baton Rouge
Percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 5.2%

Forsyth County, Georgia
Metro area: Atlanta
Percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 4.7%

Howard County, Maryland
Metro area: Baltimore
Percent of median income needed to rent: 17%
Unemployment rate: 4%

Fort Bend County, Texas
Metro area: Houston
Percent of median income needed to rent: 16%
Unemployment rate: 3.9%

Hamilton County, Indiana
Metro area: Indianapolis
Percent of median income needed to rent: 15%
Unemployment rate: 4.1%

Williamson County, Tennessee
Metro area: Nashville
Percent of median income needed to rent: 15%
Unemployment rate: 4.3%

Delaware County, Ohio
Metro area: Columbus
Percent of median income needed to rent: 14%
Unemployment rate: 3.6%

So if you’re looking for a new place to live with lower rent, those are some of your best options. Keep in mind some of them have an unemployment rate higher than the national 5.5% (as of February 2015, the most recent data available on unemployment at a county level). If you’re going to pick up and move, make sure you have decent job prospects.

No matter where you live, before you look for a home or apartment, give your credit a look. (You can get two of your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.) It can be tougher and more expensive for renters with low credit scores to secure housing, so come search time, you’ll want to make sure you’re presenting landlords with the best financial picture you can muster. Improving your credit scores takes time, but even small, short-term improvements will help increase your score. In some of these areas, you may even want to consider buying (this calculator can show you how much house you can afford) — according to the RealtyTrac analysis, it’s more affordable to buy in Tazewell, Warren and Columbia counties than it is to rent, despite the low rent costs.

More on Mortgages & Homebuying:

Image: kdh, via Wikimedia Commons

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