Atlanta is less affordable than New York, Boston and San Francisco?


If you know people in New York, San Francisco, Boston or D.C., you’ve probably had some form of the “I can’t believe how cheap it is to live in Atlanta” conversation.

I’ve had the conversation countless times with friends and family in D.C.’s suburbs, southern California, and a close childhood friend who lives in London. Most recently I had it with a work colleague who lives in Brooklyn. He looked genuinely surprised when I told him you could get a nice house with a yard and off-street parking in the heart of the city for $40,000 or $50,000 (check the sales comps in Southwest Atlanta’s Capitol View neighborhood if you think I’m exaggerating).

That’s why I was so surprised to see a new report by the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology that ranks Atlanta as only the 20th most affordable city for moderate income households on a list of 25. D.C., New York, Boston and San Francisco all show up on the list as more affordable than Atlanta?

How can this be? Because a city’s affordability is a lot more than just the price of a house. There are transportation costs. Also, average incomes vary by city. For moderate income households, housing and transportation equal 63 percent of average incomes in Atlanta. In New York, it’s 56 percent. In D.C., the most affordable city on the list, it’s 51 percent. Those cities cost more, but the people there make more money.

Of course, lists like this are far from perfect. They don’t account for factors like square footage, public schools, and proximity to amenities. But this study certainly shines a ‘splainin’ light on the ills of our local real estate market. Our property market is among the nation’s most depressed because homes here are relatively unaffordable for the people who live here.

(H/T Matthew Yglesias and Slate)