5 most affordable cities to buy a home in the US

Lights from the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan skyline are reflected in the East River after sundown on November 17, 2004. REUTERS/Peter Morgan  PM - RP5DRHXXMYAC

In fact, 68 of the country’s 88 most populous housing markets are within reach of those on median incomes. Image: REUTERS/Peter Morgan PM - RP5DRHXXMYAC

David Elliott
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how United States is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

United States

This article is part of: Sustainable Development Impact Summit

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.

Have you read?

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?

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.


How is the World Economic Forum supporting the development of cities and communities globally?

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.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum