Real Estate

BK is the ‘Most Unaffordable Place to Live’ in America

Get a good look at these brownstones, because you'll never own one. via josh c. jackson on Flickr
Get a good look at these brownstones, because you’ll never own one. via josh c. jackson on Flickr

Well, that settles that.

We already knew that way too much of our income was going to rent. Just last year, New York City came in as second-most expensive place to raise a family. But those statistics suddenly pale in comparison to Brooklyn’s latest crowning yearbook superlative, Most Unaffordable Place to Live in America.

Real estate data company ATTOM data solutions released their third 2016 quarterly report today, which ranked cities on a scale of unaffordability by comparing incomes with market rate housing and closing deal costs. Brooklyn won out by a landslide, with 123.5 percent of median income being the going rate for a house. Santa Cruz came in second, at 111.1 percent.

Marketwatch, who first reported ATTOM’s findings, put it in laymen’s terms: “A person earning the average salary in Brooklyn cannot afford the average home there — even if he or she could spend his entire salary (and then some) on housing.” Well, guess we’d better start commuting from Cleveland. [NOTE: This post has been updated.] 


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This is pretty insane.

Markets with the highest closing costs as a percentage of annual wages were all in the New York metro area, but Brooklyn’s whopping 47.2 percentage toppled that of Manhattan, at 42.6 percent.

“In each of these three cases, many people — priced out of the Manhattan, San Francisco and San Jose — are moving from the pricey city center to Brooklyn, Marin County and Santa Cruz, respectively, which is pushing prices there up,” ATTOM’s senior VP Daren Blomquist told Marketwatch. “Meanwhile, wages in those counties aren’t keeping pace with the home price appreciation, which makes these three areas the most unaffordable in the nation for residents looking to buy.”

Buy is right. As in buh-buy, future dreams of owning.

The rental market shows equally dire statistics. StreetEasy’s latest market rental report confirms “growth slowdown” in 2016, but only at the top. In other words, since there are more luxury units than there are people who can afford them, competition in the market is easing up. But also, this:

By contrast, rents for the least expensive Manhattan rentals grew twice as fast, increasing 4.4 percent.

Competition is tighter than ever at the bottom level for an increasingly scarce crop of affordable units. Brooklyn may be a borough, but it does leave us wondering: “Whose city?”


  1. We moved from the East Village to Brooklyn for cheap rent and space in 1994. It was the inconvenient, Fourth Avenue edge of Park Slope, with prostitutes and a methadone clinic on the corner. We referred to the area as “Park Slump.” And despite our proximity to the Atlantic subway station, getting places, especially on weekends was often an ordeal. We realized after we’d moved there that our friends who loved Brooklyn all had cars. But it made ten years of our life in NYC affordable. By 2005, when our landlord decided to double our rent “in anticipation,” he said, of what the neighborhood would become with planned development, we decided that he was asking the equivalent of a Manhattan mortgage and we moved back into the Village. After we moved, friends touted how much our old neighborhood had changed, but on subsequent visits, despite the giant new stadium a block away, our old street was still sketchy, storefronts were closed early, new shops were mere urban cinderblock versions of franchises and subways still took forever. The only difference was a CityBike stand on the corner and one-bedroom condos selling for over a million in what had been a vacant lot between two burnt-out buildings that were still standing. It just confirmed for us that we’d both moved to the City originally to live in Manhattan (granted some pre-1990s bohemian “Fame” dancers in the street myth of the City), and not an outer borough like Brooklyn, that had the overcrowded, inconvenient, sketchy, crumbling issues of any urban area across the country, without the conveniences of transportation, and walkable, energetic concentrations of civic, cultural and commercial activities of the Village or the Upper West Side. Today, all of Manhattan and most of Brooklyn are unaffordable, forcing out the best of their communities—the lively young creative residents, unique mom-and-pop shops, landmark institutions and community organizations—to replace it with franchised homogeneity. We left the City, after 26 years, this past spring. I absolutely miss it, now living three hours outside the City, but I can afford my life here in a way that I could not anywhere closer.

  2. Kathleen baker

    Brooklyn is too expensive to live because of the people who rent they want to make millions of dollars off of others. but they don’t care how they can live. It shouldn’t be this way. I mean what about those on a fixed income how can they survive.

  3. I am an experience home builder in the Madison, Ms. and surrounding area, and if you are looking for a place to really make your money go a long way, then come to our wonderful and exciting town right out side of the city life of a nice size area, Jackson, Ms. Our area has high level schools and prime shopping and things to do.

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