During tough economic times, with home ownership rates still in decline, some cities have been able to increase their populations by keeping the costs of living low and city marketability high.

A report released by CNNMoney lists the top 25 most affordable cities in the country. The list includes:

25. Columbus, Neb.
Median home price: $104,165
Median family income: $61,476

24. Neenah, Wis.
Median home price: $112,307
Median family income: $66,345

23. Cromwell, Conn.
Median home price: $171,000

Median family income: $102,186

22. Monroeville, Pa.
Median home price: $120,000
Median family income: $72,122

21. Findlay, Ohio
Median home price: $92,250
Median family income: $55,711

20. Fairmont, N.Y.
Median home price: $112,750
Median family income: $69,109

19. Brown Deer, Wis.
Median home price: $117,800
Median family income $73,103

18. Helena, Ala.
Median home price: $138,842
Median family income: $86,230

17. Papillion, Neb.
Median home price: $141,000
Median family income: $87,858

16. Willoughby, Ohio
Median home price: $105,000
Median family income $66,150

15. Oakdale, Minn.
Median home price: $130,000
Median family income: $82,547

14. Largo, Md.
Median home price: $150,000
Median family income: $95,499

13. Haslett, Mich.
Median home price: $124,000
Median family income: $78,959

12. Millbrook, Ala.
Median home price: $109,000
Median family income: $70,325

11. Cedar Hill, Texas
Median home price: 111,734
Median family income $73,330

10. The Colony, Texas
Median home price: $135,863
Median family income: $89,308

9. Gladstone, Mo.
Median home price: $96,690
Median Family income: $64,745

8. Irmo, S.C.
Median home price: $99,000
Median family income: $67,999

7. Clawson, Mich.
Median home price: $99,540
Median family income: $73,598

6. Temple Terrace, Fla.
Median home price: $75,000
Median family income $56,963

5. Lilburn, Ga.
Median home price: $84,478
Median family income $64,762

4. Powder Springs, Ga.
Median home price: $85,000
Median family income: $68,168

3. Homewood, Ill.
Median home price: $100,000
Median family income: $86,683

2. Plano, Ill.
Median home price: $75,000
Median family income $65,658

1. Altamonte Springs, Fla.
Median home price: $67,000
Median family income: $63,642

Onboard Informatics provided data for the list, and sales records were collected from county and municipal assessors’ offices. Only cities with more than 100 home sales in 2012 that were experiencing job and population growth qualified, according to CNNMoney

While every case is unique, may of these cities share similar traits, including low property taxes, top-notch school systems and low unemployment rates, according to the report. Many of the cities included in the list have thriving arts and cultural programs, as well as entertainment and recreation venues.

However, cities where families are purchasing affordable homes are the exception, rather than the rule. According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, home prices have risen to levels not seen since the real estate boom, but the rates of home ownership are declining.



A major reason for this, according to The Los Angeles Times, is that investors, rather than run-of-the-mill homebuyers, are the driving purchasing force in the real estate market. Since lending standards remain strict, families are losing out to investors who can pay for property with cash.

"Although there are some signs that conventional, mortgage-dependent buyers are playing more of a role in the housing recovery," Paul Diggle, property economist for Capital Economics told The Los Angeles Times, "investors remain the dominant force behind the house price bounce-back."