Inquiring minds are reviewing the results of the 6th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Countries in the survey include Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Least Affordable Cities

The article shows the top 58, I captured the top 20 above.

Congratulations To Canada And Australia

Congratulations go to Vancouver, Canada for being the least affordable city in the survey. Vancouver thus wins the gold medal in the individual competition.

Sydney Australia proudly wins the Silver medal and the Sunshine Coast Australia wins the bronze. It was close but no cigar for Australia’s Gold Coast. Honolulu Hawaii came in a respectable fifth place.

Most Affordable Cities

Detroit, South Bend, Youngstown, Flint, Toledo, Akron, Peoria, Cleveland, and many other “affordable” cities are not places where anyone would particularly want to live. Indeed many cities at the top of the affordability list are places that most would hope to escape from.

The high school graduation rate in Detroit is a mere 25%!

I am willing to bet that Detroit’s graduation rate is far and away the worst of any city in the survey. See Michigan Forces Business Owners Into Public Sector Unions; Detroit’s Aura of Hopelessness for more details.

Moreover, there are houses in Detroit, Cleveland, Flint, etc, that one could buy for $500 that have no takers. Unlivable houses no one wants at any price skew the results.

Demographia Summary by Nation

All of the affordable markets were located in Canada and the United States, while most markets in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were severely unaffordable.

Australia: House prices have continued to rise in Australia (Figure 2), which registered the worst housing affordability (the highest Median Multiple) in the
history of the Survey. Overall, housing in Australia is severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 6.8, more than double the 3.0 historic maximum norm. Housing had been affordable in Australia in the late 1980s, with a Median Multiple of under
3.0. The Median Multiple remained at or under 3.5 until the late 1990s.

All of Australia‟s major markets were severely unaffordable (Median Multiple above 5.0). Moreover, all markets, including smaller markets were severely unaffordable except Ballarat (Victoria), which was seriously unaffordable (Median Multiple between 4.1 and 5.0).

Canada: Housing is moderately unaffordable, as in previous Surveys. Canada‟s Median Multiple is 3.7. Housing had been affordable in Canada in the late 1990s, with a Median Multiple of 3.0. Canada had 5 affordable markets, 13 moderately unaffordable markets, 5 seriously unaffordable markets and 5 severely unaffordable markets.

Vancouver remained the least affordable market of any size in the surveyed nations, at 9.3, worsening from 8.4 last year. Toronto joined Vancouver as severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 5.2. However, Barrie, within the Toronto region was moderately unaffordable, at 3.4. Victoria, Abbotsford and Kelowna (all in British Columbia) were also severely unaffordable.

Ireland: Housing in Ireland has become moderately unaffordable with a Median Multiple of 3.7, showing a trend toward historic norm of 3.0.20 Housing had been affordable as late as the middle 1990s, with a Median Multiple below 3.0. The extent of Ireland‟s recent housing affordability improvement is illustrated by the EBS/DKB Affordability Index, which indicates that mortgage payments have been halved in Ireland since the peak of the bubble in relation to first home buyer incomes.

New Zealand: Housing in New Zealand was severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 5.7, nearly double the historic maximum norm of 3.0. Housing had been affordable in the early 1990s, with a Median Multiple of under 3.0. Auckland is the least affordable larger market, with a Median Multiple of 6.7, while Christchurch (6.1) and Wellington (5.7) were also severely unaffordable.

Tauranga-Bay of Plenty was again the least affordable market, with a Median Multiple of 6.8. Five of the 8 New Zealand markets were severely unaffordable, while Palmerston North, Napier-Hastings and Hamilton were seriously unaffordable New Zealand had no affordable markets and no moderately unaffordable markets

United Kingdom: Housing in the United Kingdom remains severely unaffordable, with a Median Multiple of 5.1, well above the historic maximum norm of 3.0. Housing had been affordable in the late 1990s, with a Median Multiple of under 3.0. Less than one-half of the United Kingdom markets were severely unaffordable (14 of 33), while the other 19 markets were seriously unaffordable. The United Kingdom had no affordable markets and no moderately unaffordable markets.

United States: Housing in the United States is rated as affordable, with the Median Multiple of 2.9.The recent house price declines have restored U.S. housing affordability to the below 3.0 historic norm (last achieved in the early 2000s), as the price bubble burst in many plan-driven markets. The United States had 98 affordable markets, 58 moderately unaffordable markets, 8 seriously unaffordable markets and 11 severely unaffordable markets.

The most affordable major market (population over 1,000,000) was Detroit. Other affordable major markets were Atlanta, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Riverside-San Bernardino, Rochester, Sacramento, St. Louis and Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Gold, Silver, Bronze Medals

In terms of national unaffordability (the team competition) Australia wins the gold medal, New Zealand, the silver medal, and the UK wins the bronze medal.

Because of a preponderance of “affordable” cities in the US and the way the national rankings are made, I question the results of the national survey although it likely did not affect the top three medal-winning rankings.

Email Exchange With Survey Developer

I had this exchange with Hugh Pavletich of Performance Urban Planning who helped develop the survey.

Mish: When you come up with “national affordability” are all the cities given equal weight? Does Detroit count as much as San Francisco?

Hugh: Yes.

Mish: In my opinion, a weighted average is what matters most (at least for the purpose of figuring out how big the bubble still is).

Hugh: We are NOT attempting to explain how big the bubble is on a country wide basis. We are simply illustrating what the Median Multiple is at the 3rd Qtr of each of the urban markets listed.

Other researchers are most welcome of course to take the next step and do a population weighting, if they wish to do so.

Our goal is simply to illustrate the degrees of housing stress of the urban markets listed.

Bear in mind my goal is quite different than Hugh Pavletich’s. He wants to show the role local planning rules have in affordability. Hugh makes a case that local zoning rules play a huge factor on a city by city affordability basis while I am concerned with “How Big Is The Bubble?”

From my perspective, the US and Canadian bubble problems are very understated, and the national affordability rankings of the US and Canada are thus overstated. To be certain, one would have to take a weighted average of populations and rankings. One would also need to take into consideration unlivable houses offered at $500 that no one would take. If one did that, we would see the bubbles are where the most people live.

There is much more in the survey. Please give it a look.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Click Here To Scroll Thru My Recent Post List