We lived in NE Cola for 3 years at 2 different locations (both rentals), so I'm pretty familiar with the rental homes in that area.
The first home we lived in was in a subdivision in The Summit--and I feel confident in saying that everything you heard about the area was spot-on. Our neighborhood was so beautiful...and it went downhill after about a year and a half. If someone had told me when we signed our first lease that a neighborhood of brand new homes with polite, upper-middle to middle class people would turn into "the hood" overnight, I wouldn't have believed them--but it did. There was a shooting (yes, an actual shooting)
a block behind our home; large, colorful antiquated cars with huge rims and booming sound systems came out of nowhere; there was outside drinking and rowdy behavior all about. So
we quickly moved out.
Finding another home proved to be a daunting task. Most of the homes in "desired" NE Cola neighborhoods start @ about $1300-$1400, and they go fast. But we were able to find one of that area's best kept secrets: Parsons Mill. It is a small subdivision of slightly older homes right off Clemson Road. It's quiet, it's peaceful, and most importantly, it's affordable! We went from paying $1300 a month to $800 a month. A lot of folks in that subdivision are selling their homes, so don't be afraid to give the Realtor a call and make an offer for a year to 2-year lease; that's what we did.
If that doesn't pan out for you, there is another subdivision right off Clemson Road named "Brookfield". Nice homes that are often for rent.
If that doesn't pan out, there is also Blythewood. Blythewood is--literally--right next to Cola, and you will get a lot more for your dollar rental and purchase-wise.
Also, you didn't mention if you have children or not, but if you have high-school aged children, be careful of Ridge View. Our daughter went for her freshman and a portion of her sophomore year before we moved--and while the school has some great amenities and programs--there was a definitive "bad" element moving in. Lake Carolina feeds into Ridge View, but so does the apartment across the way (and The Summit). Once again, it isn't a "bad" school, it just has more and more bad apples moving in. On the upside though, it does have great honors classes, a magnet program, and an absolutely top-notch band program.
Blessings to you and don't give up! Try Craigslist, the newspaper, anything you can get your hands on to find a place to live; the conventional methods aren't always the best