Out of 92 cities in 8 nations, this U.S. city is the No. 1 most affordable housing market, new study shows

Housing feels unaffordable and out of reach to many, and that may be because, quite frankly, it is: The number of severely unaffordable markets rose 60% in 2021 compared to the year prior, according to the 2022 edition of Demographia International Housing Affordability, a study developed by the nonprofit think tank Urban Reform Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent Canadian public policy think tank. The good news? At least in some markets, it’s still relatively affordable. (See the lowest mortgage rates you can qualify for here.)

Across the eight nations studied — Australia, Canada, China (Hong Kong), Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States — the U.S. ranked as the most affordable, the researchers found, though it still had 27 markets that were deemed severely unaffordable. (The study, which examined data from 92 major housing and labor markets across eight nations, looked at housing affordability by examining the median house price divided by the gross median household income.)

But how can the U.S. be relatively affordable when it seems so very not affordable? People think housing is unaffordable because it is to them, and it’s much more unaffordable than it was to their parents or grandparents, explains Wendell Cox, author of the report and founding senior fellow at the Urban Reform Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. And “affordability is much worse in countries like Australia, New Zealand and some Canadian markets, yet two to three decades ago these countries had affordability similar to the United States. In these cases, significant land use regulations like urban containment or compact city policies have been adopted, which has been associated with much higher house prices,” says Cox. (Urban containment occurs when the physical expansion of urban areas is curbed, creating a higher cost of living and housing affordability.)

When you dig into the individual housing markets studied in this analysis, just one ranked as affordable. That honor goes to Pittsburgh, which scored a 2.7. (The research scored places that were affordable at 3.0 or less, those considered moderately unaffordable range from 3.1 to 4.0, seriously unaffordable areas land between 4.1 and 5.0 and severely unaffordable locales rank 5.1 or more.) According to data from Sperling’s Best Places, Pittsburgh’s cost of living is 12.5% lower than the US average, with median home cost at $218,400 and median income just over $40,000.

10 of the most affordable major U.S. housing markets  

Housing Market Affordability Score
Pittsburgh, PA 2.7
Oklahoma City, OK 3.3
Rochester, NY 3.3
St. Louis, MO 3.6
Cleveland, OH 3.7
Cincinnati, OH 3.8
Buffalo, NY 3.9
Kansas City, MO 4.0
Louisville, KY 4.0

*Source: 2022 edition of Demographia International Housing Affordability

Nearly half of all cities scoring 3.0 or below, which is considered affordable, were in the United States. Pittsburgh came in at 2.7, Oklahoma City and Rochester at 3.3 and St. Louis at 3.6. “Cost of living differences between metropolitan areas are largely the result of housing affordability, the differences in housing costs relative to income,” says Cox.

10 of the least affordable major U.S. housing markets 

Housing Market Affordability Score
San Jose, CA 12.6
Honolulu, HI 12.0
San Francisco, CA 11.8
Los Angeles, CA 10.7
San Diego, CA 10.1
Miami, FL 8.1
Seattle, WA 7.5
Riverside-San Bernardino, CA 7.4
Denver, CO 7.2

Not surprisingly, as home to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, California showed the largest concentration of severely unaffordable markets with four of the nation’s five highest cost markets relative to incomes. San Jose holds landed a score of 12.6, ranking it the fourth least affordable place in the world of the 90+ markets examined, with Honolulu performing only slightly better. Both Los Angeles and San Diego round out the top 10 with Miami, Seattle, Denver, New York, Boston and Portland each embodying median multiples of 7.0 or higher.



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