According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families that pay more than 30% of their incomes on housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording rent as well as other necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. While the poorest families are the most likely to be housing-cost burdened, skyrocketing home prices in U.S. metropolitan areas have caused the nation’s housing affordability crisis to spread to a large number of middle class Americans.
While the housing cost burden for low-income households is often offset through housing subsidies, there are few forces protecting middle-income households from the rising cost of real estate. Fast-growing cities with high construction costs and low housing inventories have experienced some of the sharpest spikes in home prices over the past several decades, and today these cities have some of the largest shares of cost-burdened middle-class households.
To determine the cities where the middle class can no longer afford a home, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the share of households earning $45,000 to $74,999 annually that spend at least 30% of their incomes on housing in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Data came from “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018” report of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. There are 20 metro areas in which more than 30% of households in the income bracket spend at least 30% of their incomes on housing.
Definitions of the middle class vary by housing organization and geography. Nationwide, the middle 20% of U.S. households earn between $45,325 and $72,384, roughly in line with the $45,000-$74,999 breakout provided by the JCHS. While the incomes earned by the middle class of earners varies by city to city, the $45,000-$74,999 range was used throughout this analysis as an approximation of the American middle class.