Special Report

The 10 Least Affordable Housing Markets in America

4. New York County, N.Y.
> Affordability rate: 75.3%
> Historical avg. affordability: 79.2%
> Household median income: $68,370
> Population density: 70,172.6 per sq. mile

New York County, better known as New York City’s Manhattan, is among the most expensive places in the United States to live. Mortgage payments on a median-priced home required homeowners to earn more than 75% of the area’s median household income as of May — a figure that is actually down from a monthly average of more than 79% since 2000. Recently, New York has experienced a surge in development of extremely high-end properties — three residential skyscrapers are currently under construction on Manhattan’s 57th Street alone, a stretch now frequently referred to as “Billionaire’s Row.” Properties in these new developments are listed at prices in the tens of millions of dollars.

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3. Teton County, Wyo.
> Affordability rate: 75.4%
> Historical avg. affordability: 84.3%
> Household median income: $69,020
> Population density: 5.4 per sq. mile

Only 22,268 residents live in Teton County year-round; however, the population swells during the summer months. Grand Teton National Park, for instance, hosts between three and four million visitors each year. Additionally, Jackson Hole, a high-end vacation town located in the area, experiences large surges in its population during the tourist seasons — 52,000 in the summer and 5,000 in the winter. It is likely that the disproportionately large number of vacationers compared to year-round residents has increased home prices. Residents spent more than 75% of their median annual income on mortgage payments on median-priced homes. Yet, Teton County is more affordable than in previous years. Since January 2000, residents spent an average of 84.3% of median income on payments for median-priced homes. As of May, residents had to spend 75% of median income to afford such payments.

2. Kings County, N.Y.
> Affordability rate: 76.9%
> Historical avg. affordability: 77.7%
> Household median income: $45,215
> Population density: 35,763.9 per sq. mile

Kings County, which comprises the New York City borough of Brooklyn, is home to nearly 2.6 million Americans. It is also among the nation’s most expensive places to live. Since the start of 2000, it has cost nearly 78% of the borough’s median household income to afford mortgage payments on a median-priced property. Brooklyn property prices are at least partly influenced by those in Manhattan, yet residents in Brooklyn often have lower household incomes. Between 2008 and 2012, the median household income in Brooklyn was $45,215, well below the median of $68,370 for Manhattan.

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1. San Francisco County, Calif.
> Affordability rate: 78.1%
> Historical avg. affordability: 75.2%
> Household median income: $73,802
> Population density: 17,341.1 per sq. mile

Households in the city and county of San Francisco must earn at least 78% of the median household income in order to afford a median-priced property. One problem facing residents has been a dearth of affordable housing in the San Francisco area caused perhaps in part by zoning restrictions. Housing affordability is hardly a new problem for the city. Since 2000, residents have had to earn 75% of the median household income on average to afford mortgage payments on a median-priced home in the area. An interest rate hike would make home ownership even more expensive. A one percentage point increase in 30-year mortgage rates would mean it would take 85% of the area’s median income to afford mortgage payments.