Atlanta: Lower Rents Help Fuel Tech Scene

Major tech hubs such as San Francisco and New York attract a lot of buzz, with good reason: these cities offer easy access to funding, a good mix of startups and well-established companies, and enormous pools of tech talent.

If there’s a downside to many of these hubs, though, it’s the cost of living. According to Zumper, the median rent for a 1-bedroom in San Francisco hovers above $3,000 in many neighborhoods. Even if you’re a tech pro earning six figures a year, that level of housing expense—combined with the costs of food, transportation, and so on—can make a sizable dent in your monthly budget.

That’s why more tech pros (and tech companies) are beginning to cast their collective eye toward cities like Atlanta that have a strong tech community and a (relatively) low cost of living.

Atlanta ranked fifth on real estate and investment firm CBRE’s latest annual list of the best cities for tech talent—just behind the well-established tech hubs of San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and Washington, D.C. In order to qualify for the list, a city needed lots of available tech talent and a reasonable cost of living (as quantified by the growth in apartment rents).

According to the latest Dice Salary Survey (PDF), Atlanta placed seventeenth on the list of top tech cities by salary. In 2016, the average salary of a technology professional in Atlanta was $88,214, a 7.6 percent decrease from the previous year. That’s ahead of places like Houston ($88,166) and Portland ($85,588) but well behind Seattle ($99,290), New York City ($99,345), and other major tech hubs.

As of January 2017, though, Zumper ranked Atlanta twentieth among the nation’s most expensive rental cities, with median one-bedroom rent hovering between $1,300 and $1,500 in many areas. Take a look at the neighborhood breakdown:

That’s a bit hefty compared to cities like Raleigh, NC, or Richmond, VA, where average rents are just under $1,000—but it’s a lot lower than what you’d find in New York or San Francisco.

In other words, for tech professionals interested in establishing themselves in a city with a certain level of tech-industry opportunity—but who don’t want to pay out enormous sums in order to live—Atlanta could suit quite nicely.

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