Special Report

Cities Where the Middle Class Can No Longer Afford a Home

Detailed Findings

Home values have skyrocketed as a result of population growth in many of the cities with the largest shares of cost-burdened middle-class households. In 14 of the 20 cities where the middle class can no longer afford a home, the population growth from 2011 to 2016 exceeded the national growth of 3.7% over that time. Other factors driving home prices in the cities on this list include high construction costs, low housing inventories, environmental policies, and limited vacant developable land.

Cities with the largest shares of cost-burdened middle-class households are not necessarily the cities with the largest cost burdens across all income groups. In three metro areas on this list — Washington, D.C., Denver, and Baltimore — the share of all households spending at least 30% of their incomes on housing is below the 32.0% national share.

While there are particular factors that reduce the stock of affordable housing for middle-income families, cost burdens are still the greatest for low-income households. Nationwide, some 42.9% of households earning between $30,000 and $44,999 spend at least 30% of their incomes on housing, more than the 22.0% of households earning between $45,000 and $74,999 that are cost burdened and several times the 6.2% share of households earning $75,000 or more that are cost burdened. In all of the 100 largest metro areas, the share of cost burdened households is greater among the lower income brackets.

Methodology

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 on housing cost burdens came from “The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018” report of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Data on population, homeownership, median household income, and income distribution by quintile came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. All data are for the most recent period available.