Special Report

Cities Where Americans Struggle to Afford Their Homes

Source: Thinkstock

21. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
> Cost-burdened households: 35.0%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 38.8%
> Median single-family home value: $214,653
> Median household income: $65,000
> Homeownership rate: 63.4%

Chicago-Naperville-Elgin is one of 21 major U.S. metro areas where at least 35% of all households spend 30% or more of their income on housing. Some 17.6% of area households are moderately burdened — spending between 30% and 50% of their income on housing — and 17.4% of area households are severely burdened, spending over half of their income on housing.

Unlike most cities on this list, housing costs as a proportion of income are rising at a slower rate in Chicago than across the nation as a whole, as is the median home price. Growing affordability of housing in the area may be due to stagnant demand. The metro area’s population grew by a 10th of 1% from 2011 to 2016, even as the U.S. population grew by 3.7%. Still, Chicago remains one of the least affordable housing markets in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

20. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH
> Cost-burdened households: 35.1%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 64.9%
> Median single-family home value: $442,151
> Median household income: $81,200
> Homeownership rate: 61.3%

The Boston-Cambridge-Newton metro area is one of the wealthiest in the United States — the typical household there earns $81,200 a year, far more than the national median of $57,000. It is also one of the most expensive places to live. The typical single family home is valued at $442,151, the seventh highest median home value of the 100 largest metro areas in the country. Some 35.1% of households in the Boston metro area spend at least 30% of their income on housing, one of the highest cost burden rates of any city.

Higher housing cost burdens in the city are driven by very low supply relative to demand, particularly among the city’s low-income renters. There are less than 47 affordable rental units available for every 100 extremely low income renter households in the metro area.

Source: Thinkstock

19. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
> Cost-burdened households: 35.2%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 57.7%
> Median single-family home value: $222,658
> Median household income: $60,000
> Homeownership rate: 60.5%

In the Virginia Beach metro area, 35.2% of households spend a disproportionately high share of their income on housing costs. Nearly 16% of area households are severely burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing.

A lack of affordable housing for the metro area’s lower-income residents is likely contributing to the problem. Nearly 45% of households in the $30,000-$44,999 income bracket in Virginia beach spend between 30% and 50% of their income on housing.

Source: Getty Images

18. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
> Cost-burdened households: 36.2%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 44.5%
> Median single-family home value: $171,387
> Median household income: $48,700
> Homeownership rate: 60.7%

More than one in every three households in the New Orleans metro area pay a large share of their income on housing. Further, the majority of those households are severely burdened by housing costs, meaning they spend over half of their income on their rent or mortgage.

As is often the case, lower-income households are the most likely to be burdened by housing costs. Some 44.5% of households in the $30,000-$44,999 income range pay at least 30% of their income on housing. Meanwhile, only 3.6% of households earning at least $75,000 are disproportionately burdened by housing costs.

Source: Thinkstock

17. New Haven-Milford, CT
> Cost-burdened households: 36.3%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 61.8%
> Median single-family home value: $201,182
> Median household income: $66,500
> Homeownership rate: 61.2%

New Haven-Milford is one of two Connecticut metro areas to have some of the worst housing cost burdens in the country. The high housing cost burden appears to be driven largely by a lack of low-cost housing options. Nearly 62% of households earning $30,000-$44,999 per year spend a disproportionately large share of their income on housing.

Still, housing has become more affordable in the area in recent years, likely due to an uptick in supply. The total population in the New Haven metro area fell by 0.5% between 2011 and 2016, even as the U.S. population expanded by 3.7%. Over roughly the same period, the ratio of median home price to median income fell by 12%, and the median monthly housing payment as a share of monthly income fell by 5.4%.