Special Report

Cities Where Americans Struggle to Afford Their Homes

Source: Getty Images

6. Fresno, CA
> Cost-burdened households: 41.2%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 52.1%
> Median single-family home value: $235,570
> Median household income: $48,600
> Homeownership rate: 52.9%

Housing in the Fresno metro area is 10% less expensive on average than it is nationwide. Still, it has one of the largest shares of housing cost burdened residents in the country. The typical household in Fresno earns just $48,600 a year, $8,400 less than the U.S. median and the 11th lowest median household income of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas. Some 41.2% of Fresno households are housing cost burdened, far more than the 32.0% of cost-burdened households nationwide.

Fresno is currently in need of some 35,000 affordable housing units — but funding the project is proving to be a challenge. California requires that the apartments be solar powered and that construction workers be paid higher wages than they would receive on private sector projects, driving up construction costs considerably.

Source: Thinkstock

5. Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
> Cost-burdened households: 42.9%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 63.0%
> Median single-family home value: $349,689
> Median household income: $56,800
> Homeownership rate: 61.1%

Three of the five U.S. metro areas with the worst housing cost burden rates are in California. In Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, 42.9% of households spend at least 30% of their income on housing, well above the 32.0% of cost-burdened households nationwide. In recent years, housing costs have climbed far faster than incomes. As of 2017, the area’s median home price was 5.7 times the area’s median household income, a 56.9% increase from five years earlier.

Housing costs are likely driven up in large part by increasing demand. The metro area’s population grew by 5.2% from 2011 to 2016, well above the comparable U.S. population growth rate of 3.7%.

Source: Thinkstock

4. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
> Cost-burdened households: 43.0%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 72.4%
> Median single-family home value: $420,083
> Median household income: $71,000
> Homeownership rate: 51.0%

Of the 43% of households in the New York metro area that are cost burdened, more than half spend over 50% of their income on housing. The metro area’s poor are disproportionately burdened by housing costs. Some 72.4% of households in the $35,000-$44,999 income bracket spend at least 30% of their income on housing. In an attempt to reduce the number of households affected by high housing costs, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is on track to build 300,000 new affordable housing units in the city by 2026.

The city’s high housing costs are likely exacerbating New York’s homeless problem. While homelessness is declining across the vast majority of the country’s largest metro areas, New York’s homeless population is the largest in the country, climbing in three out of the last four years to over 80,000.

Source: Thinkstock

3. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
> Cost-burdened households: 43.2%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 71.3%
> Median single-family home value: $570,533
> Median household income: $70,000
> Homeownership rate: 52.1%

In San Diego, rising home prices have contributed to one of the least affordable housing markets in the country. The price of the typical single-family home relative to income in San Diego increased by 29.7% over the last five years, one of the largest increases of any city. Today some 43.2% of area households spend at least 30% of their incomes on housing, the third largest share of cost-burdened residents nationwide. Housing prices may continue to increase rapidly as the city runs out of developable land. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, at its current rate of construction San Diego has just 10 months of new land available for development. By comparison, a balanced market is considered to have 24 to 36 months of land available for housing development.

Source: Thinkstock

2. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
> Cost-burdened households: 45.7%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 66.1%
> Median single-family home value: $263,245
> Median household income: $50,100
> Homeownership rate: 58.3%

The ratio of home price-to-income increased more than twice as fast in Miami than it did nationwide over the past five years. While today the typical household in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach earns $50,100 a year — far less than the national median income of $57,000 — the typical single-family home sells for $263,245, the 22nd highest median home value of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas. Some 45.7% of Miami households spend at least 30% of their incomes on housing, the largest share of any major city other than Los Angeles. Nearly one in three households earning $30,000 to $44,999 a year are cost burdened by housing prices.

Renters in Miami are not spared. Added amenities and rising construction costs have pushed average rents for new units to over $2,000 in the city. Some 61.2% of renters in the metro area spend at least 30% of their income on housing.

Source: Thinkstock

1. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Cost-burdened households: 46.7%
> Cost-burdened low income households: 74.6%
> Median single-family home value: $631,007
> Median household income: $65,000
> Homeownership rate: 47.4%

In Los Angeles, housing prices increased at a faster rate than income, leading to the city becoming unaffordable for a large share of residents. Some 46.7% of city households are considered housing cost burdened, the largest share nationwide. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, a household earning the median income in Los Angeles could afford monthly mortgage payments on just 11% of homes recently sold in the area. Just 47.4% of heads of household in Los Angeles own their homes, the lowest homeownership rate of the 100 largest metro areas.

The lack of affordable housing options in Los Angeles likely forces many of the city’s lower income residents out of the area, and may force those who cannot afford to leave the metro area into homelessness. According to the JCHS, some 0.48% of the Los Angeles population is homeless, the highest rate of any metro area.