Special Report

Cities Where the Middle Class Can No Longer Afford Housing

Source: f11photo / Getty Images

8. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
> Cost-burdened middle-class households: 51.3%
> Median home value: $400,000
> Median household income: $99,669
> Homeownership rate: 63.6%

Washington D.C. is one of only eight major U.S. metro areas where over half of all households earning between $45,000 and $74,999 annually spend at least 30% of their income on housing.

Washington is one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country population-wise, and growing demand is driving up housing costs. In the last five years, the number of people living in the region climbed by 7.1%, well above the 3.8% national population growth. The lack of affordable housing for middle- and low-income residents is partially is also attributable to the high demand for luxury rentals, fueled by the city’s relatively large high-income population. Over 17% of households in the D.C. metro area earn $200,000 or more per year, well more than double the comparable 6.9% share of households nationwide.

Source: Art Wager / Getty Images

7. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Cost-burdened middle-class households: 52.8%
> Median home value: $650,000
> Median household income: $81,284
> Homeownership rate: 56.4%

Honolulu has some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The typical area home is worth $650,000, more than triple the median home value across the U.S. as a whole of $200,000. Additionally, the cost of renting in the metro area is about 77% more expensive than it is on average nationwide. As a result, the city’s middle income earners are unduly burdened by housing costs. Of area households earning between $45,000 and $74,999 annually, 52.8% spend at least 30% of their income on housing, and a staggering 21.5% spend over half of their income on housing.

Source: Art Wager / Getty Images

6. San Diego-Carlsbad, CA
> Cost-burdened middle-class households: 53.2%
> Median home value: $545,000
> Median household income: $76,207
> Homeownership rate: 53.5%

San Diego is one of the least affordable housing markets in the United States. The typical home is worth eight times as much as the median income in the metro area, nearly double the comparable ratio nationwide. Low- and middle-income residents of the metro area are disproportionately affected by the high housing costs. Nearly three in every four households in the $30,000 to $44,999 income range spend at least 30% of their income on housing, as do 53.2% of all households earning $45,000 to $74,999 annually.

Late last month, the San Diego City Council narrowly approved an update to the city’s inclusionary housing policy. Under the new terms, developers who fail to include affordable housing in new housing projects will face steeper fees.

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5. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Cost-burdened middle-class households: 53.2%
> Median home value: $600,000
> Median household income: $69,992
> Homeownership rate: 48.4%

Housing in Los Angeles is among the most expensive in the country. The typical home in the metro area is worth $600,000, triple the median home value across the U.S. as a whole of $200,000, and rental costs are about 66% higher on average than they are nationwide. As a result, area residents are far more likely to be squeezed financially by housing costs than most Americans. Nearly 46% of all metro area households spend over 30% of their income on housing compared to about 31% of households nationwide.

Los Angeles’s middle class is even more likely to be burdened by housing costs than the city’s population as a whole. Of metro area households earning between $45,000 and $74,999 annually, 53.2% spend over 30% of their income on housing, and 13.6% spend over half of their income on housing.

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4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
> Cost-burdened middle-class households: 56.8%
> Median home value: $400,000
> Median household income: $91,198
> Homeownership rate: 66.8%

Nearly 57% of middle-class households in Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk are housing cost burdened, the largest share of any metro area outside of California. Unlike most metro areas on this list, however, housing in the Bridgeport metro area has gotten more affordable in recent years. As recently as 2013, the median home value in the metro area was 5.5 times higher than the median income. As of 2018, the typical home was worth just 4.8 times the median income.

Incomes in the area may be rising faster than property values due to the relatively low growth in demand for housing. In the last five years, the number of people living in the metro area increased by just 1.7% — less than half the comparable national population growth of 3.8%.