Dubious distinction: Long Beach tops SF on unaffordable list

LA again ranks 3rd in monthly comparison of prices, incomes

Dubious distinction: Long Beach tops SF on unaffordable list
Long Beach (iStock)

Call it counter-intuitive to the extreme, but Long Beach holds a dubious distinction based on data showing it edges out San Francisco on a national list of most unaffordable housing markets.

The statistic comes from a report published Wednesday by the website RealtyHop. The analysis is based on median household incomes in the country’s 100 most populous cities compared with local median listing prices pulled from its own database.

The just-published December index finds that the average household in Long Beach would have to fork over nearly two-thirds of earnings — 65.5 percent — toward monthly mortgage payments and taxes on a median-priced home in the city of 470,000.

“One thing about housing affordability is that over time, people who can no longer afford expensive housing will slowly migrate to smaller cities close to the metro core, so in this case Long Beach — being within the Los Angeles County and being close to Los Angeles — is definitely seeing the same impact,” said Shane Lee, a data analyst with RealtyHop.

The home ownership burden facing residents of Long Beach was slightly higher than the ratio for notoriously expensive San Francisco, where residents would have to allocate 64.4 percent of income toward home ownership. San Francisco, which last month ranked fifth-most unaffordable, fell to seventh. In recent months the two cities have been swapping positions: In the October index, Long Beach also ranked fifth, only to be overtaken by San Francisco in last month’s index.

Long Beach, just 25 miles south of Downtown L.A., is often overshadowed by its neighbor but ranks as California’s seventh largest city. And while home prices there remain lower than those in much of the rest of L.A. County, the port city is also facing its own escalating affordability crisis, prompting its city council to recently consider amending its housing laws. 

The city’s unaffordability stems from both sides of the equation — rising home prices and relatively low incomes. RealtyHop calculated that the city’s current median listing price is $739,000, a figure that’s gone up approximately $15,000 since late summer and equates to a monthly cost of $3,439. At the same time, the city’s median household income is just over $63,000.

In San Diego, by comparison, RealtyHop calculates a higher median home price, of $845,000, but also a higher median household income of around $80,000. (San Diego ranked 11th most unaffordable, with the average household forced to pay 59.3 percent of earnings toward home ownership.)

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San Francisco’s figures are more extreme, with a median listing price $1.33 million and a median household income of $112,000.

Compared to a month earlier, most cities on the list became slightly more unaffordable, thanks to rising home prices. For the sixth month in a row New York ranked as the most unaffordable housing market, with a median home price of $980,000 and a median household income of $64,000, which equates to a whopping 84 percent of income eaten up by housing costs.

Miami, with significantly lower home prices and salaries, again ranked second most unaffordable.

Los Angeles, with a median home price of $915,000, ranked third. The homeownership burdens in those cities came out only slightly lower, at 83.2 and 81.2 percent.

California, unsurprisingly, figured heavily in the rankings: Oakland, Anaheim, Irvine, Santa Ana, San Jose, Chula Vista, Fremont and Riverside also scored in the top 20 most unaffordable.

“Since Covid, California has gotten even more expensive,” said Lee. “It’s not going to go down for the time being.”

At the other end of the spectrum, RealtyHop calculated that the country’s most affordable housing market was Wichita, Kansas, where the median home goes for just $150,000 and the median household income is $52,600. That means an average family there would have $770 in monthly housing costs, or 17.6 percent of income. Detroit, where the median listing is $80,000, ranked second.

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