Say you could put your entire income into paying off your house. That would make things quicker, right? To find out exactly how fast that might be, our researchers brought together data on home prices and annual incomes to determine housing affordability in the 50 most populous cities in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. To measure affordability, we calculated the affordability ratio, also known as the median multiple, which is the median home sale price divided by the median annual family income (all amounts are expressed in U.S. dollars). Essentially, the higher this ratio is, the more time it takes to pay off your house, and the wider the affordability gap in the housing market.
Our study found that Vancouver is North America’s most unaffordable real estate market. With its insane affordability gap, Vancouver exceeds even notoriously inaccessible Manhattan, and all other North American markets. In fact, 32 out of the 50 locations we analyzed are considered seriously and severely unaffordable.
According to The International Housing Affordability Survey, here’s how housing affordability is rated:
Overview: Owning a Home in Vancouver is Less Affordable Than in Manhattan and San Francisco
With a median home sale price of $1,108,345 and a median family income of $63,944, Vancouver is the most unaffordable market in North America, more so than other expensive housing markets such as Manhattan and San Francisco. Its median multiple currently stands at 17.3. Although homes in San Francisco and Manhattan are more expensive than those in Vancouver, with median selling prices of $1,275,000 and $1,207,500, respectively, a lower median income is what makes Vancouver’s affordability index higher than that of the two U.S. cities.
According to The New York Times the affordability crisis was fueled by foreign investments in the real estate sector. The median home sale price has escalated way above the median family income, turning Vancouver into one of the least affordable housing markets in the world.
This has put home ownership out of reach for many first-time buyers, pushing them out of the local market. To make matters worse, even many well-paid local professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to afford housing in their communities.
This worrisome trend isn’t isolated to Vancouver only. House prices in big cities that attract young professionals have risen way above what people could afford on a median income and Manhattan is no exception. While the median family income in Manhattan ($77,559) is considerably higher than the U.S. median ($56,516), it still can’t keep up with the current market asking price of $1,207,500, which is more than 4 times the median U.S. home sale price ($258,300). This has led to a severely unaffordable median multiple of 15.6, securing Manhattan’s position as the second most unaffordable housing market in North America.
The third most expensive market on our list, San Francisco boasts the highest median income in the U.S. ($92,094), almost twice as much as the national median. But even though San Francisco residents earn the most, it would still take 13.8 years’ worth of the median wage to pay off the mortgage in this overheated housing market, given that the median home price here is $1,275,000 – the most expensive selling price in North America and quadruple the national median price.
Hover over the bars in the chart below to see exactly how long it would take to pay off your house in each city if, hypothetically, you would put your entire income towards paying your mortgage.
Breakdown by Country: Canada is North America’s Most Expensive Market
The annual median family income in Canada is $64,752, slightly above the American benchmark of $56,516. However, a Canadian home sells for the median price of $485,680 – almost twice as much as the median sale price in the United States, currently standing at $258,300.
With a median multiple of 7.5, Canada leads the way as the most unaffordable housing market in North America. And while the median multiple in the United States is 4.6, considerably lower than that in Canada, according to The International Housing Affordability Survey, the U.S. market still qualifies as seriously unaffordable.
A Mexican home might only cost $41,748, but at the same time the average income of $12,806 is 4.4 times less than that in the U.S. and 5 times less than that in Canada. This makes the median multiple in Mexico 3.3, which is considered moderately unaffordable.
Vancouver Is in a League of Its Own
In terms of home values, Vancouver boasts the highest median selling price in Canada. In fact, luxury has become the norm in this Canadian city, where 76% of homes fall in the $1-million-plus category. By comparison, Toronto is the second most unaffordable market in Canada with a median home sale price of $471,600 and a median income of $62,624. This means Toronto’s affordability ratio is 7.5, considerably less than Vancouver’s 17.3. To put it simply, it would take you 10 years longer to pay off a house in Vancouver than it would in Toronto.
Calgary, Ottawa & Edmonton Are Canada’s More Affordable Options
With salaries way above the Vancouver and the Toronto benchmarks and enviable home sale prices, Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton are the most balanced Canadian housing markets. The median income is $81,496 in Edmonton and $83,256 in Ottawa. With equally advantageous home sale prices, $287,960 and $291,120, respectively, these two cities have the second lowest affordability index in Canada, 3.5.
Calgary comes close to Ottawa and Edmonton in terms of median income. But with a slightly higher median home sale price, $340,000 USD, the median multiple rises to 4.1.
THE UNITED STATES
New York and San Francisco Set the Unaffordability Bar in the U.S.
Manhattan is the most unaffordable U.S. market overall, with a median multiple of 15.6 – more than twice that of neighbouring borough the Bronx (6.7). However, California stands out for having four cities in the top 10: San Francisco (13.8), Los Angeles (12.1), San Jose (9.0) and San Diego (8.3).
San Francisco boasts the highest median income in the U.S., $92,094, but its housing market remains one of the least affordable due to its inflated home prices. It would take 13.8 years to pay off a house in San Francisco.
With a housing affordability index of 12.1, Los Angeles ranks as the fifth most unaffordable market in the United States. While the median home sale price has been on the increase, currently standing at $628,750, the median income is only $52,024.
Brooklyn is New York’s Burgeoning Housing Market
Once a moderately-priced borough, Brooklyn now has a median selling price of $725,000, considerably less compared to the likes of San Francisco and Manhattan, but almost three times as much as the national median. And with the median household income just shy of the U.S. benchmark, Brooklyn’s severely unaffordable median multiple of 13.1 secures its position among the top 5 most unaffordable U.S. markets. As a whole, New York City sports a median multiple of 12.1.
Seattle Gives San Francisco a Run for Its Money
Ranking eighth in the U.S., Seattle also has a severely unaffordable median multiple of 8.7. But if we take into account that in terms of median income Seattle is only steps behind San Francisco, and the median home price hovers around $700,000, this attractive tech-hub is the real winner in terms of housing affordability.
Mexico’s Unaffordability Gap Is Severe, but Lowest in North America
While the principle remains the same, for Mexico, we calculated the housing affordability ratio based on available average values.
With the average income currently at $6,171 and an average home sale price of $42,776, Acapulco has the widest affordability gap in Mexico, 6.9. The reason Acapulco is so unaffordable, even more than the capital city, is likely a combination of extremely low incomes and home prices artificially pushed up by the prevalence of vacation homes.
Mexico City takes second place as the most unaffordable housing market in the nation. With an average home sale price of $83,911, the oldest capital city of the Americas is in a league of its own. In spite of being one of the highest-paying cities in the country, with an average income of $13,780, the affordability ratio remains fairly high, 6.1.
North America’s Most Affordable Housing Markets
With a median multiple of 3.4, Winnipeg stands out as the cheapest Canadian real estate market. While the median income might not deviate too much from the national benchmark, Winnipeg homes have the lowest median selling price of any major city in Canada, $225,254 USD.
The thriving city of Monterrey boasts the highest national average income, $14,954. By contrast, the average home sale price is below the national benchmark, currently standing at $40,235. This has led to an extremely low affordability ratio of 2.7, which makes Monterey the most affordable housing market in Mexico.
With a median multiple of only 1.8, Detroit ranks as the most affordable market in North America. Sure, this might sound good in theory, but it might not be enough to bring back any potential home-buyers. In Detroit, you might be looking at the lowest home values in the U.S., at around $48,000, but it also ranks worst in terms of median family income, just $25,980.
If you want to find out where your city stands, here’s where you’ll find all the figures for the 50 cities:
|City||State||Country||Population||Median home sale price||Median family income||Home price to income ratio|
|New York||New York||US||8,537,673||$675,000||$55,752||12.1|
|Queens ||New York||US||2,333,054||$490,867||$62,207||7.9
|Washington||District of Columbia||US||681,170||$570,000||$75,628||7.5|
|Mexico City||Distrito Federal||MX||8,851,080||$83,911||$13,780||6.1|
|San Luis Potosí||San Luis Potosí||MX||722,772||$44,456||$9,127||4.9|
- For our study, we looked at the 50 largest cities by population in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico;
- The affordability ratio in this article was calculated by dividing the median home sale price by the yearly median income. For Mexico, the available values were based on state statistics;
- The annual household income figures were researched using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Statistics Canada and INEGI’s Module of Socioeconomic Conditions 2015 in Mexico;
- House prices (from July 2017) were researched using PropertyShark’s database and MLSs for the U.S., CREA, Local Real Estate Associations and the Royal Le Page House Price Survey for Canada and Sociedad Hipotecaria Federal for Mexico;
- All amounts are expressed in U.S. dollars. The affordability ratio remains the same if the amounts are converted to Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos.
- Since New York City’s boroughs are considered individual markets with distinct characteristics, we treated them separately.
Fair use and redistribution
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