Chicago is the Crown Jewel of the Midwest. Today, the Windy City boasts a 2006 U.S. Census estimated population of 2,833,321, which is the third largest in the country after New York City and Los Angeles. Chicago, Illinois remains an all-important center for banking, industrial activity, transportation, and education and will continue to welcome legions of Americans deep into the future.
This apartment guide is directed towards the migrating young professionals, students, families, and working class locals of the area that are looking to rent a cheap apartment in Chicago. Securing affordable real estate represents the fusion of building a base of neighborhood knowledge and reconciling the prevailing characteristics of Chicago’s disparate enclaves with your own needs and goals.
Chicago, the “City of Neighborhoods,” is arguably the most segregated city in the United States of America. Certainly, these trends will come into play and we will address the demographics in accordance with each section.
Personally, I have noticed that the majority of Chicago apartment and real estate guides are written from the perspective of Caucasians. Despairingly, the majority of Chicago, Illinois property materials behave as if the ethnic locales of this city do not even exist.
I.e., Chicago real estate literature predictably shuns the South and West Sides strictly in favor of the Loop and North Side.
This guide is also sure to differentiate the word “cheap” from the idea of value. I am assuming that consumers are in search of value, rather than renting a cheap apartment solely based upon lowest price deep into the most dangerous quarters of the ghetto.
Yes, Chicago is the most violent Big City in America, by far, and traversing gangland turf to save some change would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Lastly, I must note that proud Chicagoans typically bleed Lake Michigan fresh water from their veins and Midwest migrants into the Windy City will love this place. Contrarily, East Coast and West Coast natives making the move will abhor the weather and definitely rethink their decision to relocate every single year between January and May.
East Coast D.C. – Boston megalopolis Black people arriving at Chicago must gird themselves for culture shock. The historical redlining and discrimination patterns that have decimated and retarded the growth of gargantuan swaths of this city are absolutely abhorrent.
Of course, local Chicagoans will retaliate that “every city is like this.”
We will analyze the cheap rental proposal from both sides of the equation. Our work begins by exposing areas of gaudy expense or hidden costs and closes with viable solutions for consumers seeking true rental value in Chicago.
“Cheap” is often in the eye of the beholder and really translates into “less expensive than the next guy.”
Where NOT to Find a Cheap Apartment in Chicago to Rent
Real estate costs in Chicago will spike at the Loop and radiate in all directions from the downtown core in terms of expense. Rents will remain particularly elevated north of the Chicago River into River North and Lincoln Park per the sweeping skyline and Lake Michigan views.
The Gold Coast represents prime Chicago real estate and hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline from Oak Street to North Avenue. Out-of-towners will recognize this area by the sharp curve at U.S. Lake Shore Drive and the swank high rises that tower over this section of the lakefront.
Loop, River North, and Lincoln Park rentals are more so identified with luxury and never the word “cheap.” Renters should expect to drop $1,000 per month for a studio apartment downtown. Rents will easily skyrocket towards $3,000 for two bedroom apartments.
Presidential Towers is a collection of high rises at 555 W. Madison Street, which are actually fairly priced in step with the Chicago Loop rental market. The location is technically the West Loop and prices range from $920 – $2,749 at the time of this writing contingent upon the floor plan.
The South Loop, which is centered upon Roosevelt Road and the Lake, exploded with the real estate boom, and prices have sagged somewhat into the bust. Still, the South Loop offers little relief from the exorbitant fare. Museum Park Place is pitching 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom apartments for $2,100 at 1841 S. Calumet.
I reason that it is fairly safe to say that diligently searching for a cheap apartment downtown and along the lakefront is a pipe dream. That is, unless your idea of “cheap” is a $900 studio and / or posting up in a 2 bedroom off North Avenue with 5 other buddies.
Of course, 2 bedroom apartments are moving for $800 in Austin and Englewood. Certainly, I would not recommend that wide-eyed apartment hunters venture deep into Chicago’s inner city to save a buck. The Windy City ghetto is predominately bounded by The I-90 / 94 – Dan Ryan and 290 – Eisenhower Expressways.
East Coast natives new to the area must take special care. Whereas Eastern Seaboard blight is up close and personal, the Midwest hood landscape is synonymous with empty lots, wide-open space, and quiet abandonment.
Basically, you could very well sign a lease for a “cheap” apartment within one of the more dangerous communities in Chicago and not even know it. That is, until your friends mysteriously refuse to pay a visit to your new pad, or you just get stuck up.
Whichever comes first.
Where to Find a Cheap Apartment in Chicago to Rent: Neighborhoods
Unfortunately, apartment hunters in Chicago are often delineated per racial lines.
White people rarely dip beneath Roosevelt Road, Black people often dismiss the North Side as hostile territory, and Hispanics largely occupy neighborhoods that are due northwest or southwest. Indian and Asian Americans have also flocked to Devon, Lincoln, and Chinatown, respectively.
Hyde Park, Pilsen, and Rogers Park identify the most diverse enclaves from all points Chicago. Interestingly, these three sections also offer the best value in terms of price, space, culture, and access.
Rogers Park: I must identify Rogers Park as the best neighborhood in Chicago to find a cheap apartment. Rogers Park actually abuts Evanston and is marked by Loyola University, Lake Michigan, and Howard Street. The living quarters are particularly large and both Metra and CTA public transportation service the area. By car, commuters are funneled onto Lake Shore Drive per Sheridan Road, Ridge Boulevard, and Hollywood at Edgewater.
2 bedroom apartments hug the $850 price point in Rogers Park. However, aggressive bargain hunters may pound the pavement to find deals well within the $600 to $750 range, which is outrageously cheap for the Big City and North Side.
Overall, the drawbacks to the Rogers Park neighborhood include the dearth of parking on the back streets and the difficult connection to points west per the I-90 / Kennedy Expressway. Chicagoans that place parking and access to The Kennedy at a premium over Lake Michigan recreation would be better served by finding a cheap apartment in Logan Square.
African-Americans looking to socialize with other Black people will discover the jarring fact that friends and family will rarely commit to undertaking the lengthy trip to 7000 North.
Although Rogers Park is very diverse within its own right, the Chicago Black community is directly centered upon the South and West Sides. Furthermore, Hyde Park is the focal point for the Black middle class.
Hyde Park: Buppies may prefer Hyde Park rentals that are relatively “cheap” compared to Lincoln Park / Lakeview, yet one shade higher than those of Rogers Park. Meanwhile, Hyde Park – Kenwood and the University of Chicago mark one of the few locations on the South Side beyond Bridgeport, where witnessing a white face does not equate to the shock of staring down an unidentified flying object.
Rents will shift from $500 to $1,000 according to the floor plan in Hyde Park. For example, one-bedroom apartments at 5120 S. Harper are moving for $650 at the time of this writing. Of course, South Side rentals will cheapen away from the lakefront and Hyde Park epicenter.
Bronzeville and South Shore always emerge as viable alternatives to Hyde Park for Black professionals. Jeffrey Apartments is renting out two-bedroom units for $750 at 71st and Jeffrey in South Shore.
Out-of-towners must be aware of the fact that Hyde Park – Kenwood is surrounded by rough neighborhoods and “up and coming” areas on all sides. “Up and coming” is snazzy real estate jargon for gentrification and real talk for ghetto.
Take heed, unscrupulous developers will carry the Hyde Park nameplate to dupe unwitting renters into “cheap” leases within the seedier sections of Woodlawn and King Drive directly across Washington Park and the Midway from Hype Park.
Woodlawn is characterized by decay, housing projects, and heavy gang activity. Although close, 63rd Street between Cottage Grove and Stony Island is not Hyde Park.
Convenience is always the issue on the South Side. Commercial activity generally shuts down at nightfall on this end, while the CTA #6 Express and Metra commuter rail train service to downtown is very irregular from Hyde Park.
Pilsen: Pilsen is the most viable alternative to Chicago Loop rental rates in terms of price. The community is skirted by the Dan Ryan – Stevenson interchange and traversed by 18th, Halsted, and Blue Island. Pilsen is an eclectic zone, which features Mexican-American flair, alongside loft-style living for artistic types, students, and young professionals.
Rents will begin at $1,000 for two bedrooms along Halsted within close range to the University of Illinois at Chicago and downshift towards $750 due south and west to Damen Avenue and Cermak Road. In fact, a private owner at 2326 W. 24th Street is promoting a 2-bedroom apartment for $650 in monthly rent at the time of this writing.
Fortunately, the Pilsen neighborhood is served by the CTA Pink Line. The elevated I-90 / 94 – Dan Ryan Expressway complex, which spans the area into downtown is the most congested bottleneck in all of Chicago.
Where to Find a Cheap Apartment in Chicago to Rent: Legwork
Apartment hunters are now armed with the proper information to transact business on the surface. Consumers will search for apartments on line via the Chicago Tribune, Sun Times, Apartments.com, or Craigslist.
I must also acknowledge the fact that numerous landlords forego placing ads and listings electronically or in the newspaper. The best way to find a cheap apartment in Chicago is to simply drive or take public transportation into an area and hit the block by foot.
Local property owners and neighbors will provide intelligent knowledge pertaining to pricing and specifications. Also, I deem it especially important for consumers to appreciate “the feel” of an area at all times of day by first-hand experience.
Intimate coffee shops and stores typically post flyers for cheap apartments. Per Hyde Park and Rogers Park, the University of Chicago and Loyola University grounds are always crossroads for information and postings on the yard.
Importantly, securing a cheap apartment in Chicago translates into common sense. Movers must aggressively patrol the perimeter of any area to record pertinent data before setting up appointments for showing.
Consumers must take heed that the online community is often the playground for scammers setting up death traps for green Chicagoans searching for “cheap apartments.”
Where to Find a Cheap Apartment in Chicago for Rent, Sources:
Kofi Bofah, Chicago Street Guide and Guide, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1718194/chicago_street_guide_and_grid.html?cat=16
The City of Chicago, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/webportal/home.do
Chicago Apartments, http://chicago.apartments.com/
Rogers Park Community Council, http://www.rogerspark.org/