NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Ranking of Housing Affordability

January 30, 2014

Urban planning policies are responsible for raising housing costs, says a new survey from Demographia.

The survey examined 360 metropolitan markets in nine countries (Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States), ranking housing affordability based on a number of factors.

  • The United States, Ireland and Japan contained the most affordable major metropolitan markets (ranked as "moderately unaffordable"), while Canada was ranked "seriously unaffordable," and Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong "severely unaffordable."
  • The most affordable major markets in the United States were Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Indianapolis. Conversely, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles -- all in California -- had high unaffordability rankings.
  • Of all 360 markets measured, 95 of them were ranked "affordable," 84 of those being in the United States. Of the rest, seven affordable markets were in Canada and four in Ireland.

The study found that increases in housing unaffordability over the last 10 years in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, as well as some places in the United States, corresponded with an increase in restrictive land use policies (policies such as urban containment, smart growth or growth management, etc.). 

To make housing affordable, a market needs a competitive land supply. Urban containment policies -- which, while ineffective, are mainly justified as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- are incompatible with that need.

Source: Wendell Cox and Hugh Pavletich, "10th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2014," Demographia, 2013.


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