How Unaffordable Is A House In Your City?

Does a higher income really make up for the high cost of housing in cities like New York and San Francisco?

Living in New York, we hear this a lot: Sure, housing is way more expensive, but income is amped up, too, so it sort of works out. We try not to look into this, for fear it isn’t true at all, but NPR decided to actually run the numbers for 385 U.S. cities, from Abilene, Texas, to Yuma, Arizona, and compare income to housing prices.


The typical home, NPR says, usually costs somewhere between one and two times a resident’s annual income. The outliers on the bottom edge, where a home is inordinately cheap, are rust belt cities–Detroit, Michigan, or Decatur, Illinois. On the high end, where house prices skyrocket away from income, are Honolulu, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara. In 2014, San Francisco’s home price is well over five times the typical annual salary of a San Franciscan–egregiously expensive!

New York, interestingly, is on the high side but isn’t one of the elite highest. Our telltale number, the ratio of income to home price, appears to have suffered a mild but steady decline since its peak in around 2005. Though home price is still near three times annual salary, it’s nowhere near the spikes of San Francisco or Honolulu.

[H/T NPR. Play around with the infographic here.]

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.