Fact checked

These cities have the highest share of unaffordable neighborhoods in 2024

unaffordable neighborhoods
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Homeownership is one of the key pillars of the American dream. But for many families, the idyllic fantasy of a picket fence and backyard barbecues remains just that—a fantasy.

Thanks to elevated mortgage rates, sky-high house prices, and scarce inventory, millions of American families have been locked out of the opportunity to buy a home in many cities.

To shed light on America’s housing affordability crisis, Creditnews Research ranked the 50 most populous cities by the percentage of neighborhoods within reach for the typical married-couple household to buy a home in.

The study reveals a stark reality, with many cities completely out of reach for the most affluent household type. Not only that, the unaffordability has radically worsened in recent years.

Comparing how affordability has changed since Covid, Creditnews Research discovered an alarming pattern—indicating consistently more unaffordable housing in all but three cities.

Fortunately, there’s still hope for households seeking to put down roots in more affordable cities—especially for those looking beyond Los Angeles, New York, Boston, San Jone, and Miami.

Sam bourgi 3
The typical American family has a hard time putting down roots in many parts of the country. In 12 of the top 50 cities, at least 50% of neighborhoods are out of reach for the average married-couple household. The affordability gap has widened significantly since Covid; in fact, no major city has reported an improvement in affordability post-pandemic.
Sam Bourgi
Senior Analyst at Creditnews
Key findings
  • The most unaffordable cities are Los Angeles, Boston, St. Louis, and San Jose; in each city, 100% of neighborhoods are out of reach for married-couple households earning a median income;
  • The most affordable cities are Cleveland, Hartford, and Memphis—in these cities, the typical family can afford all neighborhoods;
  • None of the top 50 cities by population saw an improvement in affordable neighborhoods post-pandemic;
  • California recorded the biggest spike in unaffordable neighborhoods since pre-Covid;
  • The share of unaffordable neighborhoods has increased the most since pre-Covid in San Jose (70 percentage points), San Diego (from 57.8 percentage points), and Riverside-San Bernardino (51.9 percentage points);
  • Only three cities have seen no change in housing affordability since pre-Covid: Cleveland, Memphis, and Hartford. They’re also the only cities that had 0% of unaffordable neighborhoods before Covid.

Cities with the highest share of unaffordable neighborhoods

With few exceptions, the most unaffordable cities for married-couple households tend to be located in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets.

Four cities in the ranking have an unaffordability percentage of 100%—indicating that the median married-couple household couldn’t qualify for an average home in any neighborhood.

The following are the cities ranked from the least affordable to the most:

  • Los Angeles, CA: Housing affordability in Los Angeles has deteriorated over the last five years, as average incomes have failed to keep pace with rising property values and elevated mortgage rates. The median household income of married-couple families in LA is $117,056, but even at that rate, 100% of the city’s neighborhoods are unaffordable.
  • St. Louis, MO: It may be surprising to see St. Louis ranking among the most unaffordable housing markets for married-couple households. But a closer look reveals that the Mound City was unaffordable even before Covid. In 2019, 98% of the city’s neighborhoods were unaffordable—way worse than Los Angeles, Boston, or San Jose.
  • Boston, MA: Boston’s housing affordability challenges began long before Covid but accelerated after the pandemic. Before Covid, married couples earning a median income were priced out of 90.7% of Boston’s neighborhoods. But that figure has since jumped to 100%, despite a comfortable median household income of $172,223.
  • San Jose, CA: Nestled in Silicon Valley, San Jose has long been one of the most expensive cities for housing in America. But things have gotten far worse since Covid, as 100% of its neighborhoods are now out of reach for the average family. Perhaps the most shocking part is that the median household income for married-couple families is $188,403—much higher than the national average.
  • San Diego, CA: Another California city, San Diego, is among the most unaffordable places in the country. Despite boasting a median married-couple household income of $136,297, 95.6% of the city’s neighborhoods are unaffordable.
  • San Francisco, CA: San Francisco is another California city with a high married-couple median income ($211,585) but low affordability. The percentage of unaffordable neighborhoods for these homebuyers stands at 89.2%.
  • New York, NY: As one of the most expensive cities in America, New York is a difficult housing market for married couples with dual income. New York City’s share of unaffordable neighborhoods is 85.9%, marking a 33.4% rise from pre-Covid times.
  • Miami, FL: Partly due to a population boom post-Covid, Miami is now one of the most unaffordable cities for homebuyers. Roughly four out of five (79.4%) of Miami’s neighborhoods are out of reach price-wise for married-couple families. That’s a 34.7% increase from 2019.
  • Nashville, TN: With Nashville’s population growth rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, the city has also seen greater affordability challenges. In the Music City, 73.7% of neighborhoods are considered unaffordable for married-couple households—an increase of 11.9% from pre-Covid levels.
  • Richmond, VA: Rounding out the bottom 10 is Richmond, where 55.9% of the city’s 161 neighborhoods are unaffordable for married-couple households. That’s an 11.9% increase from pre-Covid levels.

Cities with the lowest share of unaffordable neighborhoods

All the cities in our top-10 ranking have less than 10% unaffordable neighborhoods—meaning the average family can qualify for a home in at least 90% of the city.

Interestingly, these cities are also outside the top 15 cities by population, and eight are in the bottom half.

The following are the cities ranked from the most affordable to the least:

  • Hartford, CT: Hartford ranks first with the percentage of unaffordable neighborhoods at 0%, unchanged since pre-Covid times. Married couples earning a median income of $135,612 can afford to live in any of the city’s 16 neighborhoods. Interestingly, Hartford is the smallest city to rank in the top 10.
  • Memphis, TN: Like Hartford, Memphis has 0% unaffordable neighborhoods, meaning any married couple earning a median income of $101,734 can afford an average homes in any of the city’s 12 neighborhoods. The percentage of unaffordable neighborhoods also stood at 0% before Covid.
  • Cleveland, OH: The Midwestern city of Cleveland is also tied for first, with the percentage of unaffordable neighborhoods at 0%. That means households with a median-couple income of $89,066 can qualify for an average home in all of the city’s neighborhoods. Cleveland is also among the three cities that have seen no change in unaffordability compared to 2019.
  • Minneapolis, MN: The largest city in the top 10, Minneapolis’ share of unaffordable neighborhoods stood at 2.41%, up slightly from 2019. Married couples earning the median income ($149,214) have access to the vast majority of the city’s 83 neighborhoods.
  • Baltimore, MD: Married-couple households in Baltimore earn a median income of $141,634. At that rate, they can afford to live in 97.3% of the city’s 222 neighborhoods, making only 2.7% of neighborhoods unaffordable. That’s up from 0% pre-Covid.
  • Louisville, KY: Louisville is a highly competitive market for married households. For married-couple households earning a median wage, only 3.6% of neighborhoods are unaffordable, up 11.9% from pre-Covid times.
  • Cincinnati, OH: The second Ohio city in the top 10 ranks close to Cleveland in population but has a much higher median married-couple household income of $129,324. Only 3.6% of the city’s neighborhoods are unaffordable, up slightly from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Indianapolis, IN: Another competitive Midwestern market, only 4.4% of Indianapolis is unaffordable, making the vast majority of the city’s 92 neighborhoods accessible to the average married couple. Still, the percentage of unaffordable neighborhoods before Covid was less than 1%.
  • Oklahoma City, OK: Before Covid, Oklahoma City had 0% neighborhoods unaffordable for married-couple households earning the median wage. It has since increased to 4.69%, which is still tiny compared to the national average.
  • Kansas City, MO: Kansas City has one of the largest numbers of neighborhoods in the top 50 cities. Its married-couple residents can afford to live in nearly 95% of them, making only 5.6% of neighborhoods out of reach. Like Indiana, Kansas City’s share of unaffordable neighborhoods was less than 1% before Covid.

The biggest Covid losers

What's particularly astonishing about the current housing market is just how quickly affordability has declined since Covid.

Even factoring in the market correction after the 2022 peak, the price of existing homes is still nearly one-third higher than before Covid. Mortgage rates have also more than doubled since early 2022.

Combined, the rising home prices and interest rates led to the worst mortgage affordability in more than 40 years.

Against this backdrop, it’s hardly surprising that unaffordability increased in 47 of the 50 cities studied and remained flat in the other three. No city reported improved affordability in 2024 compared to 2019.

The biggest increases are led by San Jose (70 percentage points), San Diego (57.8 percentage points), Riverside-San Bernardino (51.9 percentage points), Sacramento (43 percentage points), and Phoenix (42 percentage points).

The following cities in our study are ranked by the largest percentage point change in unaffordable neighborhoods since pre-Covid:

Methodology
Sources
  1. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 30-year fixed rate mortgage average in the United States (2024)
  2. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Median sales price of houses sold in the United States (2024)
  3. U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Labor. Household income in the past 12 months (2022)
  4. Zillow. Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) for homes within the 65th to 95th percentile range