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The Least Affordable U.S. Cities for Rent on an Average Salary

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A chart listing the least affordable U.S. cities.

The Least Affordable U.S. Cities for Rent on an Average Salary

In 2023, 34% of the 131 million households in the U.S. lived in rented homes.

But which U.S. cities are the least affordable to rent in? With runaway housing prices and local salaries struggling to keep up, some of America’s largest metros feel quite unaffordable.

To answer the question more concretely, CashNetUSA found rental price data (as of August 2023) from Zillow.com and compared it to city salary data to calculate the percentage of properties available to rent for 30% or less of the local average income.

Which Cities are the Least Affordable?

It turns out that plenty of places are shockingly unaffordable for renters. In Miami, Cambridge, and Boston, fewer than 10% of the rental listings are affordable on a the average salary.

For context, Miami’s annual mean salary is close to $59,000, and the Boston-Cambridge area comes in at $80,000 a year. These places are also expensive for homeowners, with both Boston and Miami being in the 10 most expensive cities in the U.S. to buy a home in.

Here are the results for all cities in CashNetUSA’s study, sorted from most to least affordable:

Note: Data current as of August, 2023.

Joining Boston and Miami in the most unaffordable cities is Chula Vista in California, where exactly one in 10 the rental listings could be classified as affordable. That’s fewer than New York’s results (11.63%).

California has four of the top 20 most unaffordable cities for renters, and ranks fifth in the list of states by income inequality.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: CashNetUSA

Methodology: CashNetUSA sourced the average base salary of U.S. cities focusing on the 100 most populated cities in the country, plus the five most populated cities from each state. Using Zillow.com, they then counted how many rental properties per city were listed at a monthly price equivalent to 30% or less of a city’s monthly gross salary. The number of rental properties available per city was converted into a percentage score per city. Data for this research is accurate as of August 2023.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Mapped: The World’s Least Affordable Housing Markets in 2024

See which housing markets are considered ‘impossibly unaffordable’ according to their median price-to-income ratio.

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The World’s Least Affordable Housing Markets in 2024

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Many cities around the world have become very expensive to buy a home in, but which ones are the absolute most unattainable?

In this graphic, we highlight a number of housing markets that are deemed to be “impossibly unaffordable” in 2024, ranked by their median price-to-income ratio.

This data comes from the Demographia International Housing Affordability Report, which is produced by the Chapman University Center for Demographics and Policy.

Data and Key Takeaway

The median price-to-income ratio compares median house price to median household income within each market. A higher ratio (higher prices relative to incomes) means a city is less affordable.

See the following table for all of the data we used to create this graphic. Note that this analysis covers 94 markets across eight countries: Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

RankMetropolitan MarketCountryMedian price-to-income
ratio
1Hong Kong (SAR)🇨🇳 China16.7
2Sydney🇦🇺 Australia13.8
3Vancouver🇨🇦 Canada12.3
4San Jose🇺🇸 U.S.11.9
5Los Angeles🇺🇸 U.S.10.9
6Honolulu🇺🇸 U.S.10.5
7Melbourne🇦🇺 Australia9.8
8San Francisco🇺🇸 U.S.9.7
9Adelaide🇦🇺 Australia9.7
10San Diego🇺🇸 U.S.9.5
11Toronto🇨🇦 Canada9.3
12Auckland🇳🇿 New Zealand8.2

According to the Demographia report, cities with a median price-to-income ratio of over 9.0 are considered “impossibly unaffordable”.

We can see that the top city in this ranking, Hong Kong, has a ratio of 16.7. This means that the median price of a home is 16.7 times greater than the median income.

Which Cities are More Affordable?

On the flipside, here are the top 12 most affordable cities that were analyzed in the Demographia report.

RankMetropolitan MarketCountryMedian price-to-income
ratio
1Pittsburgh🇺🇸 U.S.3.1
2Rochester🇺🇸 U.S.3.4
2St. Louis🇺🇸 U.S.3.4
4Cleveland🇺🇸 U.S.3.5
5Edmonton🇨🇦 Canada3.6
5Buffalo🇺🇸 U.S.3.6
5Detroit🇺🇸 U.S.3.6
5Oklahoma City🇺🇸 U.S.3.6
9Cincinnati🇺🇸 U.S.3.7
9Louisville🇺🇸 U.S.3.7
11Singapore🇸🇬 Singapore3.8
12Blackpool & Lancashire🇬🇧 U.K.3.9

Cities with a median price-to-income ratio of less than 3.0 are considered “affordable”, while those between 3.1 and 4.0 are considered “moderately unaffordable”.

See More Real Estate Content From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Ranked: The Most Valuable Housing Markets in America.

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