Special Report

Most Affordable Places to Buy a House in the Northeast

House prices are always a hot topic — a house is the biggest purchase most people will ever make, the most important asset they will ever own, and of course the place where they will live and perhaps raise a family. Houses have traditionally been seen as a good investment. They are expected to appreciate in value and, as they say, the population is getting bigger but the country isn’t. House prices have often risen faster than inflation and even faster than wages, which may be good for owners but bad for first-time buyers.

24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the 50 most affordable housing markets in the Northeast. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development defines an “affordable dwelling” as one that costs a household 30% or less of its income. Of course, incomes and house prices vary from state to state and from locale to locale — they’re generally higher in big cities and lower in rural areas. (These are the cities where the middle class can no longer afford housing.)

Our list is dominated by housing markets in Pennsylvania, which claims the top 12. To paraphrase a famous quote, Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with a lot of affordable housing in between. 

The No. 1 most affordable market is Shamokin, Pennsylvania. It was once a prosperous place thanks to abundant coal resources, which attracted various industries and railroads but has become economically depressed as coal has fallen from favor. In second and third place, Johnstown and Duquesne, also in Pennsylvania, were once booming steel towns. Duquesne once had the world’s largest blast furnace, but both towns were hit hard by deindustrialization and the decline of the steel industry. (These are the poorest places in the Northeast.)

Click here to see the most affordable places to buy a house in the Northeast

To identify the most affordable housing markets in the Northeast, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey five-year estimates, ranking only the 1,116 census-designated places, cities, and towns with at least 5,000 residents in the Northeast. (All data came from the ACS except percent of population change, which we calculated using ACS data.)