The US city of San Francisco is iconic. Its famous Golden Gate Bridge frequently appears on the silver screen, it has a rich countercultural history, and many of the world’s biggest tech firms call its Bay Area home. Want to live there? Well, you’ll probably need to earn quite a few times the amount you do now.

That’s according to a new report from real estate firm Redfin that shows a typical family in the area would need to triple their annual income to $265,000 to afford a median-priced home there. It’s a similar story in other places in the state of California, including San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

But the picture is a little different across the US as a whole. In fact, 68 of the country’s 88 most populous housing markets are within reach of those on median incomes, the report says. Here are the five most affordable.

1. Detroit

In Michigan state’s biggest city, as renowned for its motor industry history as it is for being the home of Motown music, the yearly salary needed to buy a median-priced home is $27,690. That’s about 47% of the area’s median household income – making it the most affordable housing market in the country for middle-class families.

The Detroit skyline, as seen from the north side of the city in Michigan.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Lott

2. Rochester

On the shore of Lake Ontario in western New York, Rochester has been ranked among the best places in the US to raise a family. Good news, then, that it’s the second-most affordable market in the country for those earning a median salary to do so. At $30,289, the yearly income needed to buy a home in the area is just under 55% of the local average.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

People ride a sky carpet up a toboggan hill in Rochester
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

3. Dayton

A family would need to earn $28,980 annually to buy a typical home in this Ohio city – about 56% of the area’s average income. The city is the hometown of the Wright brothers, the aviation pioneers largely credited with making the world’s first successful airplane.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity's greatest achievements - and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities. To shed light on the housing crisis, the Forum has produced the report Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities.

Five major waterways converge in Dayton.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

4. Buffalo

New York state’s second-biggest city is on the shore of Lake Erie, one of North America’s Great Lakes, and close to the world-famous Niagara Falls. A family looking to buy in the area would need an annual income of at least $31,785 – just over 59% of the median.

The mouth of the Niagara River at Buffalo.
Image: Reuters/Joe Traver

5. Pittsburgh

Rounding out the top five is Pennsylvania’s second-biggest city, known for the multiple Super Bowl-winning American football team the Steelers, a history of steel manufacturing, and for being the “City of Bridges” – 446 of them, to be precise. A family would need to earn 60% – $33,655 – of the average local income to buy in the area.

A view of downtown Pittsburgh from Mount Washington.
Image: Reuters/David Denoma

While these five cities offer many people the chance to buy a home, housing remains a major challenge around the world. According to UN figures, only 13% of cities offer affordable housing, with the crisis set to worsen as urbanization continues. A Forum report explores the challenges city leaders face in creating more homes that people can afford, and how the public and private sectors can best work together to overcome them.