Los Angeles takes top spot as nation’s least affordable housing market


San Francisco, which has been the nation’s least affordable major housing market for the past two years, was supplanted by Los Angeles in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today.

In all, 63.2 percent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $75,500. This is virtually unchanged from the 63.6 percent of homes sold that were affordable to median-income earners in the third quarter.

“While builder confidence remains strong, they continue to deal with shortages of lots and labor, inefficient zoning requirements, and density and growth restrictions in many markets that are driving up housing costs and hurting affordability,” said NAHB Chairman Dean Mon, a home builder and developer from Shrewsbury, N.J.

“Growing household formations, ongoing job creation and rising wage growth are fueling housing demand,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “But a record-low resale inventory, coupled with underbuilding as builders deal with supply-side constraints, continue to put upward pressure on home prices even as interest rates remain at low levels.”

Mortgage rates and home prices remained relatively stable over the past two quarters, which is why affordability held steady. The national median home price was $279,000 in the fourth quarter, essentially unchanged from $280,000 in the third quarter of 2019. Likewise, average 30-year mortgage rates stood at 3.78 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 3.73 percent in the third quarter.

Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind. was rated the nation’s most affordable major housing market, defined as a metro with a population of at least 500,000. There, 91.5 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $79,900. Meanwhile, Cumberland-Md.-W.Va. was rated the nation’s most affordable smaller market, with 96.7 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $59,300.

Rounding out the top five affordable major housing markets in respective order were Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazleton, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.

Smaller markets joining Cumberland at the top of the list included Kokomo, Ind.; Fairbanks, Alaska (tied for second); Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.; and Springfield, Ohio.

Los-Angeles-Long-Beach-Glendale, Calif., assumed the mantle as the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 11.3 percent of the homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $73,100. San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, Calif., which stood as the nation’s least affordable major housing market for the past eight consecutive quarters, fell to No. 2.

Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart were in California. In descending order, they included Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine; San Diego-Carlsbad; and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara.

All five least affordable small housing markets were also in the Golden State. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Salinas, where 11.8 percent of all new and existing homes sold were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $74,100.

In descending order, other small markets at the lowest end of the affordability scale included San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande; Santa Cruz-Watsonville; Napa; and Santa Rosa.

Here are the tables, historic data and details.

Editor’s Note: The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) is a measure of the percentage of homes sold in a given area that are affordable to families earning the area’s median income during a specific quarter. Prices of new and existing homes sold are collected from actual court records by Core Logic, a data and analytics company. This release incorporates the use of Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed effective interest rates series, following the discontinuation in mid-2019 of the FHFA series previously used in HOI calculations. National and metropolitan area HOI numbers were revised back to the first quarter of 2012 using Freddie Mac’s interest rate series.