A man calculating his mortgage

Metros with the most mortgage-burdened homeowners

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June 27, 2022
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Metros with the most mortgage-burdened homeowners

Roughly half of all Americans agree a lack of affordable housing in their city is a major problem, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey. Pew also found a proportion of Americans concerned about dwindling housing affordability has grown in recent years—and for good reason.

Knowing this, Stacker analyzed U.S Census Bureau data to find where homeowners are spending the largest share of their income on mortgage payments. To be included, each metropolitan area had to have at least 100,000 mortgage holders in 2020, the latest data available.

Residents of some of the most populous metro areas in the U.S. are feeling the squeeze in their mortgage payments as home values continue to grow nationwide. For decades experts have used the same tried and true measure for housing affordability—when a person keeps their housing expenses within 30% of their annual income, it allows for spending on life’s other necessities, such as food, transportation, and health care.

Analyzing how many homeowners are contributing more than 30% of their income to mortgage payments in any given metro can paint a picture of how financially stretched thin a population is. Experts call these homeowners “mortgage-burdened.” Almost 49 million Americans have mortgages, and around 27% of them are considered mortgage-burdened, according to the most recent Census data available.

Stacker found metro areas in California ultimately topped the list of places with the most mortgage-burdened homeowners. The Golden State has become notorious for an affordable housing shortage, though metros in several other states also rose to the top of the rankings. Continue reading to see if your metro made the list.

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Downtown Poughkeepsie, New York
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Richard Mast // Shutterstock

#10. Poughkeepsie, New York

- Total mortgage holders: 107,363
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 35.2%

Housing prices in Poughkeepsie have been rising steadily as the city situated on the bank of the Hudson River just north of New York City has gone through a revival of sorts in recent years. Victorian-style houses have been bought up and renovated, historic railroad infrastructure turned into tourist destinations, and sprawling parking lots have been cleared and replaced with multifamily apartment complexes.

The typical person living in Poughkeepsie earns around $47,000 per year, according to Census data. Meanwhile, the median sale price of a home in the city is $333,000, according to data from Realtor.com.

The marina in Stamford, Connecticut
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#9. Stamford, Connecticut

- Total mortgage holders: 158,763
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 35.3%

Like Poughkeepsie, Stamford’s proximity to New York has made it a magnet for wealthy individuals looking to move out of the crowded city. Stamford is considered part of the wealthy, majority white metro area that also includes the neighboring cities of Bridgeport, Norwalk, and Danbury, also known as Connecticut’s “Gold Coast.”

Between 2010 and 2020, Stamford’s population grew its fastest since the mid-1900s, adding more than 10,000 residents. It’s home to several Fortune 500 companies, including Charter Communications, United Rentals, and Indeed. The median income in Stamford is nearly $97,000 annually, per the most recent Census data, and the typical home in the metro area lists for $600,000, according to Realtor.com data.

Aerial cityscape view of San Francisco, California
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Engel Ching // Shutterstock

#8. San Francisco

- Total mortgage holders: 664,099
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 35.4%

More than a third of homeowners in many of California’s most populous metros are considered mortgage-burdened, and homeowners in San Francisco must accept some of the most expensive real estate prices in the entire U.S. California’s so-called Bay Area includes San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. It is home to an exceptionally wealthy tranche of Americans due to the concentration of high-paying tech jobs in the region.

The median annual income in San Francisco County in 2020 was nearly $120,000, and in San Jose, it’s $117,000, according to Census data. Despite higher incomes, sky-high home values in the Bay Area still ensure that mortgage payments make up an outsized portion of residents’ financial obligations each year.

Honolulu, Hawaii
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#7. Honolulu

- Total mortgage holders: 120,650
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 37.8%

In Honolulu, a greater share of homeowners are mortgage-burdened than even San Francisco. Faced with steep declines in tourism revenues, Hawaii’s own government as well as local business CEOs worked to attract remote workers during the COVID-19 pandemic—a move that could have a lasting impact on the Aloha State’s housing affordability.

In the capital city on the island of Oahu’s south shore, the typical household earns around $87,000 annually and the median home is listed for $700,000, according to Realtor.com data. Experts in Hawaii have advocated that the rising cost of everything, housing included, has only lent more ammunition to the argument that the island state needs more affordable housing.

New York City, New York, at sunset
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#6. New York

- Total mortgage holders: 2,298,350
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 38.1%

Most might figure New York City to be the most unaffordable place one could own a home in the U.S.—and its proportion of mortgage-burdened homeowners is high. The median home in New York is selling for $860,000 today, according to Realtor.com data. The city suffers from an acute shortage of housing, placing upward pressure on rental costs as well as mortgages. As housing costs are hitting all-time highs, elected officials are facing immense pressure to alleviate the shortage.

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Riverside, California
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#5. Riverside, California

- Total mortgage holders: 621,258
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 38.1%

Riverside sits an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles and is part of the metro area known as the Inland Empire. Home prices in Riverside have nearly tripled in the last two decades. Some experts have suggested the growing remote work trend is pushing more workers to purchase homes in less population-dense portions of the state.

Each square mile of LA, on average, is home to more than 8,000 people. That level of density is much higher than in Riverside, where each square mile is home to around 300 people, according to Census data. The typical home in Riverside sells for around $625,000, according to Realtor.com, with Census data showing the median household income to be $70,000 annually.

San Diego, California
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#4. San Diego

- Total mortgage holders: 434,507
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 38.5%

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria began an effort in March 2022 to spur new home building with the hopes of alleviating the shortage currently driving up housing costs for residents. The city boasts much of the same natural, oceanside beauty offered by LA but is about half as densely populated, according to Census data.

Real estate analysts who have watched locals leave the city in recent years for cheaper housing elsewhere argue wages haven’t caught up with the San Diego area’s high cost of living. The typical household in San Diego earns around $83,000 per year, and the median home sold for $911,000, per Realtor.com.

Homes in Oxnard, California
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#3. Oxnard, California

- Total mortgage holders: 122,724
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 38.8%

Oxnard, the childhood home of farm labor activist Cesar Chavez and training camp site for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, sits one hour northwest of downtown LA. Oxnard is considered part of the metro area that includes Thousand Oaks and Ventura.

The region’s economy is dependent on agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and increasingly, the financial and tech sectors. The median household earns $77,000 per year, and the typical home in Oxnard sells for $760,000, according to Realtor.com.

Miami, Florida
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#2. Miami

- Total mortgage holders: 760,044
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 40.4%

The coastal oasis of Miami is one of the country’s least-affordable cities. It’s even more densely populated than LA, and the Miami Herald’s editorial board has moved from describing the lack of affordable housing in the metro area as a problem to dubbing it a full-blown “crisis.”

Miami-Dade County itself officially declared a housing emergency in early 2022. Programs intended to spur the building of more affordable housing have been inadequate in remedying the situation over the last decade, according to The Herald. At roughly $44,000 per year, the median household income in Miami is staggeringly low compared to South Florida’s housing costs. The typical home in Miami sells for $500,000, according to Realtor.com.

Downtown Los Angeles, California
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#1. Los Angeles

- Total mortgage holders: 1,498,220
- Share that are mortgage burdened: 41.8%

Rounding out the most unaffordable places to live is Los Angeles—easily the poster child for frighteningly high housing costs and homeless working people in the U.S. In LA, the typical household brings home $65,000 annually, according to Census data. Meanwhile, Realtor.com data shows the typical home sells for $1 million.

Los Angeles County, like other counties in California, has actually seen its population decline since the start of the pandemic. Experts say residents are being driven out, in part, by a need to find cheaper housing. And forget affordable homes for sale in LA—the Los Angeles Times has dubbed even finding a place to rent a “competitive sport” in today’s economy.

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