Special Report

Cities Where Americans Struggle to Afford Their Homes

Detailed Findings

Lower-income Americans are more likely to be burdened by housing costs and are often impacted harder by housing cost burdens. Nationwide, 42.6% of households earning $30,000 to $44,999 a year are burdened by housing costs, compared to 22.0% of household in the $45,000 to $74,999 income range and just 6.2% of households earning $75,000 or more.

High housing costs can have serious implications for lower-income households. For example, in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk metro area in Connecticut, one in every three households earning $30,000 to $44,999 a year spend over half of their income on housing, and are considered severely cost burdened. That means an area household earning $35,000 and spending 55% of income on rent or a mortgage has only about $1,300 left over a month to spend on food, utilities, health care, transportation, savings, and any other necessary expense.

While 2.6% of households earning $75,000 or more in the Bridgeport metro area are also severely burdened by housing costs, the remaining share of total income can carry them much further. A household in Bridgeport spending 55% of its $100,000 annual income on housing would have $3,750 in remaining funds for other monthly expenses.

In many of the cities on this list, low-income households are forced to pay a disproportionate share of their income on housing because of a lack of affordable options. In cities like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, California, there were fewer than 20 affordable units for every 100 low-income renters in 2016.

Some cities on this list facing similar shortages of affordable low-income housing are taking measures to address the problem. For example, in New York, where 72.4% of those earning between $30,000 and $44,999 are burdened by high housing costs, Mayor Bill de Blasio is implementing a program to build 300,000 new affordable housing units in the city by 2026.

Similarly, the city of Stockton, California — where 58.4% of households earning between $30,000 and $44,999 a year are moderately or severely burdened by housing costs — is planning to pay its poorest residents a basic income to offset rising housing costs and reduce homelessness.

In addition to the broad trends affecting housing costs across the nation as a whole, increasing demand partially explains high housing costs in many of the cities on this list. Between 2011 and 2016, the U.S. population grew by 3.7%. Population growth outpaced the national growth rate in 14 of the 19 cities on this list for which data is available. In 10 of those metro areas, the median monthly mortgage payment increased by more than the 41.4% national average over roughly the same period — nearly doubling in some cases.

Methodology

To identify the U.S. cities where the most households struggle to afford their homes, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018,” a report compiled by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The rank is based on the share of households in a given metro area paying 30% or more of their monthly income on housing. The rank, which was included in the JCHS report, was calculated using median household income, adjusted to a monthly rate, and the median price of an existing single-family home. Only those cities where at least 35% of households spend 30% or more of their income on housing were included on this list. Income-to-home price ratios, which were also included in the JCHS report, were calculated using Moody’s 2017 income projections. All other measures of income are from the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Population estimates are also from the ACS.