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Crunching the Numbers: How to Find Affordable Housing Across America

Housing Affordability Across U.S. States: What You Need to Know

Living in a place you can call your own is a dream for many, but for some Americans, it may seem like it’s out of reach due to high housing costs. If you are one of those Americans, don’t lose hope.

With a little bit of research, you can find the right state for you where the median household income and housing costs are in sync. This article looks at the data on housing affordability in the U.S. and provides insights to help you make an informed decision.

Hours of Work Required to Pay Monthly Mortgage

Buying a house is a significant financial commitment, and it’s important to make sure you can afford the monthly mortgage payments before taking the plunge. One way to measure affordability is looking at how many hours of work are required to pay the monthly mortgage.

According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, the national housing wage for a two-bedroom rental is $24.90 per hour, which means that a household must earn $51,960 per year to afford the fair-market rent of $1,294 per month. However, the hourly housing wage varies dramatically across the U.S., ranging from $9.07 (Arkansas) to $39.03 (Hawaii).

Regional Differences in Housing Affordability

In addition to statewide differences, there are also regional disparities when it comes to the cost of housing. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, states in the Western region have the highest per capita personal income, whereas states in the Southeastern region have the lowest.

Concerning the cost of housing, the West Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington) is known for having some of the highest housing costs in the country. The Midwest tends to have lower housing costs than the West, but higher housing costs than the South, where the cost of living tends to be lower.

State-Specific Data on Housing Affordability

Median Household Income

The median household income indicates the median earnings of households in a particular state. The higher the median income, the more people can afford to pay for housing.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Maryland has the highest median household income of any state, at $86,223, followed by New Jersey and Hawaii. The lowest median household income is in Mississippi, at $45,642, followed by West Virginia and Arkansas.

Median Home Listing Price

The median home listing price refers to the middle price point of all the homes listed for sale in a particular state. A higher median home price means that homes are more expensive in that state and could be outside the budget of many potential homeowners.

According to Zillow, as of August 2021, the state with the highest median home listing price is California, at $679,000, followed by Massachusetts and New York. The three states with the lowest median home listing prices are West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi, with all three averaging less than $200,000.

Mortgage Rates for a 30-Year Fixed Loan

Mortgage rates are a crucial factor when considering buying a house because they determine how much you will have to pay each month. According to Bankrate, the national average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.12% as of August 2021.

Idaho has the lowest average rate at 2.93%, while Louisiana and Arkansas have the highest average rates, at 3.19%. It’s worth noting that mortgage rates change frequently, so it’s essential to keep an eye on them before applying for a mortgage.

Monthly Mortgage Payment

The monthly mortgage payment is the amount you pay each month towards your mortgage loan. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median existing-home price for all housing types in July 2021 was $360,800, which would translate to a monthly mortgage payment of around $1,528 for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at a 3.12% interest rate.

The monthly mortgage payment varies widely based on the loan size, interest rate, and home price.

Hours to Afford

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition calculates the number of hours a household needs to work at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair-market rent. According to their data, there is no state in the U.S. where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom rental home working only 40 hours a week.

In Florida, the state with the lowest number of hours required to afford a two-bedroom rental at minimum wage, a worker would still have to work 76 hours or two full-time jobs per week to make ends meet.


In conclusion, affordability is a crucial consideration when looking for a place to live, and there are different ways to measure housing affordability in the U.S. If you’re thinking about buying a house, it’s essential to research state-specific data and be realistic about what you can afford. Understanding the data on median household income, median home listing price, mortgage rates, and monthly mortgage payment can help you make an informed decision.

Keep in mind that these numbers serve as a general guide, and your personal situation will play a significant role in determining whether homeownership is financially feasible for you. State Rankings for Housing Affordability: A Comprehensive Guide

For many Americans, owning a home is a symbol of stability and security.

However, for many, it can seem like an unattainable dream. Housing affordability is a significant concern in the United States, with a multitude of factors affecting the ability of Americans to afford homes.

This article takes a closer look at state rankings for housing affordability, and the different factors that influence affordability.

States with Lowest and Highest Hours of Work Required

One of the critical measures of housing affordability is the number of hours of work required by a household to pay for housing expenses. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, the state with the lowest number of hours of work required to afford a typical two-bedroom house is Ohio, requiring 64 hours of work per week, followed by Indiana, requiring 72 hours per week.

On the other hand, Hawaii tops the list of states requiring the highest amount of working hours, with 158 hours per week, followed by California, requiring 117 hours per week. The rankings clearly show that housing affordability varies greatly across the different states in the U.S.

Ohio Residents have the Least Number of Working Hours Required

The state of Ohio has been consistent in having one of the lowest housing wage rates, indicating that homeowners in Ohio can afford homes better than other states. The state’s average housing wage in 2021 is $16.46, which translates to an annual income of $34,225 to afford the rent of a typical two-bedroom house.

The state’s affordability is due to the relatively low home prices, low cost of living, and a relatively strong job market.

Hawaii Home Buyers have the Most Number of Working Hours Required

Contrary to Ohio, Hawaii consistently tops the list of the states requiring the highest number of hours of work to afford a home. Hawaii’s ranking is attributed to its high cost of living, high median home prices, expensive taxes, and a relatively weak job market.

According to a 2021 report by the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in Hawaii is $994,300, while the average income for a family of four is around $111,000.

Additional State Rankings for Hours of Work Required

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports show that 22 states require more than 100 hours of work per week to afford typical two-bedroom rental homes, while no state requires less than 52 hours. The states with fewer working hours required tend to be located in the Midwest, Northeast, and parts of the South, while the states with more extended working hours tend to be located on the West Coast and Hawaii.

Factors Influencing Housing Affordability

Role of Median Income in Housing Affordability

The role of median household income in housing affordability is significant since the cost of housing relative to one’s income directly determines the affordability of their home. In states where the median income is high, housing tends to be more affordable, while states with lower median incomes typically have less affordable housing.

States with large metropolitan areas tend to have high median incomes but also have a relatively higher cost of living, mainly in housing costs.

Relationship between Home Prices and Hours of Work Required

Home prices and the number of working hours required are directly related such that a higher home price leads to an increase in the number of hours required to afford a home. This relationship is because a higher home price increases the size of the mortgage needed to purchase the home, leading to higher monthly payments, which translate to more working hours needed.

In states where home prices are lower, housing is more affordable, thus less working hours are required to afford a home.

Impact of Mortgage Rates on Hours of Work Required

Mortgage rates have a significant impact on the cost of homeownership, leading to variations in the number of working hours required to afford a home. A higher mortgage rate translates to higher monthly payments, which increases the number of required working hours.

Conversely, lower mortgage rates can make homeownership more affordable, leading to a reduction in the number of working hours required. For example, states with historically low-interest rates on mortgages like Idaho, Tennessee, and Utah have lower working hours required to afford a home.


In conclusion, the ranking of states by the number of working hours required to afford a typical two-bedroom is a significant indicator of state housing affordability. Multiple interconnected factors influence the affordability of housing in every state, including median income, home prices, and mortgage rates.

Homebuyers and homeowners should carefully consider these factors when looking for homes, as the affordability of housing can vary significantly across state borders. Overall, understanding the complexities of housing affordability is crucial before entering the housing market and purchasing a home.

Methodology: A Closer Look at the Data Sources and Tools Used in Housing Affordability Surveys

Surveys play a critical role in understanding and measuring housing affordability. The data collected through surveys can provide a comprehensive overview of how the housing market is performing and highlight the challenges that homeowners and homebuyers face in making homes affordable.

This article takes a closer look at the survey methodology used to gather data on housing affordability, the data sources and tools used in conducting such surveys, and the profiles of the survey population.

Overview of Survey Methodology

Surveys are research tools used to collect data from a sample population to make inferences or predictions about a larger population. In terms of housing affordability surveys, respondents may be asked about their income, expenditures, debt, housing costs, and other relevant topics to provide a complete picture of the state of housing affordability.

Typically, surveys may include both closed-ended and open-ended questions to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the topic at hand.

Data Sources and Tools Used in Survey

In the context of housing affordability surveys, survey data may be collected through several data sources and tools. One source of data includes the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey (ACS).

The ACS provides annual estimates on the prevalence of housing affordability challenges, particularly among low-income households, by asking questions related to whether a household experiences cost burdens and how much of their income is devoted to payroll and housing expenses. Another significant tool used in collecting data on housing affordability is the Out of Reach report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).

The annual report provides an overview of state and county data on the average hourly wage that renters require to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at the fair market rent level. The report includes a comparison of hourly wages with the federal minimum wage to show the wage gap and highlight the issue of affordability.

Profile of the Sample Population

The sample population is a critical aspect of the methodology of any survey, including surveys related to housing affordability. The sample selection process must align with the research question, population of interest and should be representative of the broader population.

Research studies often use a random sampling technique to ensure the data collected is diverse and accurately reflects the broader population.

For housing affordability surveys, the profile of the population under study is typically homeowners, renters, and individuals looking for affordable housing.

Low and moderate-income households may experience more difficulties with housing affordability than higher-income households. Therefore, they are often a critical focus of studies.

These groups are likely to rely on government housing subsidies or support to help them to pay rent or purchase homes, and as such, policymakers are interested in the data collected from these surveys to inform policy decisions.


Overall, surveys are essential tools for understanding housing affordability. By collecting accurate data, researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders can analyze the trends and factors that are affecting housing affordability across regions and demographic groups.

However, it is essential to be mindful of the different data sources, sample populations, and tools used when conducting housing affordability surveys. By understanding these aspects of methodology, we can better evaluate the findings of such surveys and use the results to develop effective policies and programs that help increase housing affordability.

In summary, understanding housing affordability is vital for homeowners, renters, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Housing affordability varies significantly across states and can be influenced by several factors, including median household income, home prices, mortgage rates, and working hours required.

Housing affordability surveys are critical tools for collecting data that informs policymakers and stakeholders to make informed decisions. It is interesting to note that Ohio state has consistently ranked top on the list of the states requiring the least amount of working hours to afford housing, and Hawaii, on the other hand, requires the most hours.

With proper data sources, tools, and methodologies, policymakers can develop effective policies and programs to increase housing affordability.

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