It doesn’t always make sense to measure affordability by a price in absolute dollars.
With real estate in particular, every county is different and value may be relative depending on the area in question. A ranch that seems expensive to a farmer in Nebraska may be a drop in the bucket for a lawyer from Manhattan.
Today’s interactive chart from Overflow Data shows median home values plotted against median household income, which helps give you a feel for where the least affordable housing in the U.S. is located. It’s also worth noting that in this visualization, that data comes from the ACS 2011-2015 5 year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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Expensive by any Measure
The least affordable housing in the U.S. falls into two categories: places that you would expect (San Francisco, New York City) and counties that may be off your radar, such as a few in Massachusetts, Washington, or Wyoming.
The Bay Area, not surprisingly, has some of the least affordable housing in the country – both in absolute terms, and in terms relative to income. There is no shortage of anecdotes for the madness occurring in San Francisco and the surrounding area, and the data reflects that.
In San Francisco proper, the median home value is $800,000 with a median income of $81,000, giving a price-to-income ratio of 9.8. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, housing is nearly as pricey, but many people are able to make up for it with higher incomes: San Mateo County has a ratio of 8.3, and Santa Clara County has a ratio of 7.3.
New York City, with its five boroughs, is also interesting to look at. Here they are ranked by price-to-income:
- Kings County (Brooklyn): 11.8 (House value: $570,000, Income: $48,000)
- New York County (Manhattan): 11.7 (House value: $849,000, Income: $73,000)
- Bronx County (The Bronx): 10.6 (House value: $363,000, Income: $34,000)
- Queens County (Queens): 7.8 (House value: $450,000, Income: $58,000)
- Richmond County (Staten Island): 6.0 (House value: $440,000, Income: $73,000)
Brooklyn is the most expensive borough based on price-to-income, just nudging out Manhattan. The Bronx also has some of the least affordable housing in the country, mainly due to lower income levels than the rest of the city.
As mentioned before, states like Wyoming, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Washington also have counties that are quite expensive in terms of price-to-income.
- Teton County, Wyoming: 9.1 (House value: $689,000, Income: $75,000)
- Pitkin County, Colorado: 8.7 (House value: $621,000, Income: $71,000)
- San Miguel County, Colorado: 9.1 (House value: $513,000, Income: $56,000)
- Nantucket County, Massachusetts: 10.7 (House value: $903,000, Income: $84,000)
- Dukes County, Massachusetts: 10.3 (House value: $661,000, Income: $64,000)
- San Juan County, Washington: 8.3 (House value: $466,000, Income: $56,000)
Many of these, such as Teton County or Pitkin County, are located in the mountains.
Others, like the San Juans or Nantucket are made up of beautiful islands that are relatively close to major cities – in this case, Seattle and Providence/Boston respectively.
Via Visual Capitalist