The US City Too Expensive to Live In

As has been the case for decades, some cities are much more expensive than others. These have tended to be on America’s coasts, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Seattle. A new study shows cities where low-income people can barely afford housing at all. At the head of the list is Santa Cruz, Calif. (These are America’s 25 least affordable housing markets.)

“Out of Reach” from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that “The 2023 national Housing Wage is $28.58 per hour for a modest two-bedroom rental home and $23.67 for a modest one-bedroom rental home.” The figure is three times the national minimum wage and about 50% more than the higher hourly wage some states require. Based on either figure, housing is costly for people who live in some cities.

Santa Cruz home prices are so high that it would require a wage of $63.33 an hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city. In San Francisco, the figure is $61.31, and in San Jose, $56.56. Salinas comes in at $51.44 and Santa Marina at $51.29. Most of these are clustered in the same geographic area in California. California is also the most expensive of all states at $42.45.

By contrast, the state with the lowest hourly wage to cover the rent of a two-bedroom apartment is Arkansas at $16.27.

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To be reasonable, the report’s authors wrote, the high cost of living in these cities often means higher wages. However, a price above $50 is unlikely to make housing affordable. According to the report, “In no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour work week.”

These are the most expensive cities to live in:

  • Santa Cruz, Calif. ($63.33)
  • San Francisco, Calif. ($61.31)
  • San Jose, Calif. ($56.56)
  • Salinas, Calif. ($51.44)
  • Santa Maria, Calif. ($51.29)
  • Boston, Mass. ($50.67)
  • Stamford, Conn. ($49.29)
  • Santa Ana, Calif. ($48.83)
  • Seattle, Wash. ($47.21)
  • New York, N.Y. ($47.13)

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