Low mortgage rates are one reason home prices have skyrocketed in the United States. Another is a migration of Americans from large, expensive coastal cities like New York and San Francisco to less expensive ones inland that sometimes are perceived as having a better quality of life. This migration has been made possible from the work-from-home economy built around restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ironically, the rush to move to cities with less expensive real estate has made that real estate much more expensive. According to the carefully followed S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index, in August, home prices nationwide jumped 19.8% from the same month last year. In Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa, the number was above 25%.
What was affordable housing in some cities is no longer affordable, particularly for long-time residents.
To identify the large American city with the most affordable housing, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the affordable housing rank of large cities from the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities 2021 report. The institute was founded by the former junk bond king and felon.
Total population figures come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year estimates. Median list prices for homes in each metro area in September 2021 came from the National Association of Realtors.
Note that in ranking cities according to affordability, the Milken Institute considered average salaries and the availability of job opportunities as well as median home prices, so the most affordable locales aren’t always those with the lowest-priced homes.
Although a number of cities reviewed sport median list prices in the $300,000 area, homes in other large cities can be had for $200,000 or less. An outlier is Ogden, Utah, where the median home cost is almost $500,000. Yet Ogden’s status as an emerging tech center (its Weber State University recently nabbed a $50 million grant to expand the area’s technology sector) may help workers afford a more expensive home. The Milken Institute report estimates the city has nearly 6,000 tech jobs with an average annual salary of $64,403.
Many of the most affordable cities we considered are found in the Midwest and South. In the city that topped the list homes are listed for $285,000 (lower than Zillow’s nationwide median figure of $308,220). Next up are two Midwestern metros: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Rounding out the top five are Kingsport, Tennessee-Virginia, and Beaumont, Texas. All have home values well under $300,000.
The major metro with the most affordable housing is Hickory, North Carolina. Here are the details:
- Milken housing affordability rank: #1
- Median listing price, Sept. 2021: $285,000 (143rd highest out of 917 MSAs)
- Population: 369,711