7th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

Publication, Poverty, Wendell Cox


Rating Housing Affordability
The 7th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey expands coverage to 325 markets in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. This edition marks the addition of Hong Kong.

The Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey employs the ?Median Multiple? (median house price divided by gross annual median household income) to rate housing affordability (Table ES-1). The Median Multiple is widely used for evaluating urban markets, and has been recommended by the World Bank and the United Nations and is used by the Harvard University Joint Center on Housing.

More elaborate indicators, which mix housing affordability and mortgage affordability can mask the structural elements of house pricing are often not well understood outside the financial sector.  Moreover, they provide only a "snapshot," because interest rates can vary over the term of a mortgage; however the price paid for the house does not. The reality is that, if house prices double or triple relative to incomes, as has occurred in many severely unaffordable markets, mortgage payments will also be double or triple, whatever the interest rate.

Historically, the Median Multiple has been remarkably similar in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, with median house prices having generally been 3.0 or less times median household incomes in the principal affordability indexes (historical data has not been identified for Hong Kong). This affordability relationship continues in many housing markets of the United States and Canada. However, the Median Multiple has escalated sharply in the past decade in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom and in some markets of Canada and the United States.

Housing Affordability in 2010 Housing affordability was little changed in 2010, with the most affordable markets being in the United States and Canada. The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand continue to experience
pervasive unaffordability.

Major Metropolitan Markets:

The 325 markets include 82 major metropolitan markets (those with more than 1,000,000 population).

Among these major metropolitan markets, there were 20 affordable major markets, 25 eight moderately unaffordable major markets, 13 seriously unaffordable major markets and 24 severely unaffordable major markets. All of the affordable major markets were in the United States while three of the moderately unaffordable markets were in Canada, with the other 22 being in the United States. The seriously unaffordable markets were concentrated in the United Kingdom and the United States. The severely unaffordable were principally in the United Kingdom (9), Australia (5) and the United States (5). There were three severely unaffordable major markets in Canada (Table ES-2).

The most affordable major market was Atlanta, with a median house price of $129,400, and a Median Multiple of 2.3. Indianapolis ($120,200) and Rochester ($121,500) tied for 2nd most affordable major market, at a Median Multiple of 2.4. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit tied for 4th most affordable, with a Median Multiple of 2.5, followed by Buffalo, Las Vegas and St. Louis at 2.6. Eleven other US major markets were rated affordable, including fast growing Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Jacksonville and Nashville.

All major markets in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Hong Kong were severely unaffordable. Hong Kong ranked as the least affordable major market (82nd), with a median multiple of 11.4. Sydney ranked second most unaffordable, at a Median Multiple of 9.6 (81st), having slipped behind last year’s most unaffordable market, Vancouver at 9.5 (which ranked 80th). Melbourne ranked 79th, with a Median Multiple of 9.0. Plymouth & Devon, San Francisco, London and Adelaide all had Median Multiples of more than 7.0 (Table ES-3).

All Markets:

Among all 325 markets surveyed, there were 115 affordable markets, 106 in the United States and 9 in Canada. There were 94 moderately unaffordable markets, 74 in the United States, 17 in Canada and 3 in Ireland. There were 42 seriously unaffordable markets and 74 severely unaffordable markets. Australia had 27 severely unaffordable markets, followed by the United Kingdom with 21 and the United States with 15. Canada had 6 severely unaffordable markets, while New Zealand had 4. China’s one included market, Hong Kong, was also severely unaffordable
(Table ES-4).