We gauged each location’s affordability by comparing housing costs with annual income. How do U.S. cities measure up? Oklahoma City is the most affordable, as average income comprises only 16 percent of housing costs. Numerous cities in the South and East tie for second place at 17 percent, including Birmingham, Buffalo, Houston and Louisville.
Again, California tops the charts for most expensive housing. In first-place Riverside, housing costs command an average of 28 percent of income. L.A. comes in second at 27 percent, followed by five more California cities. Also relatively expensive are Miami, New York City and Northern New Jersey.
The numbers paint an interesting picture. For instance, Memphis, Phoenix and Miami have median housing costs on the low end — but the low salaries still make the cities relatively expensive. On the flip side, Washington, D.C., has pricey housing and high salaries to match, which makes it comparatively affordable.
It’s vital to ensure monthly housing costs leave enough left over for other necessities, such as food and health care. However, this cost analysis doesn’t paint the whole picture. A paper published by University of Michigan economist David Bieri asserts that quality of life should also factor into the affordability equation. For example, you may live in a city where your income comprises a fair chunk of your housing expenses — but if you enjoy other benefits, such as excellent public schools or a top-notch public transit system, the costs may even out.