Three Australian cities in ‘impossibly unaffordable’ global housing rankings

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun9,2024
Key Points
  • Australia and the US have dominated global housing unaffordability rankings.
  • Three Australian cities are ranked as ‘impossibly unaffordable’.
  • Two others are listed as ‘severely unaffordable’.
Housing has become so unaffordable in parts of the world that researchers for the first time in 20 years of writing the same report added a new category of “impossibly unaffordable” to describe the ratio of income to cost of housing.
reached this ranking — Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide — meaning the US was the only country with more ‘impossibly unaffordable’ cities, notching up 5.

The Chapman University Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s Demographia International Housing Affordability report uses what it terms the median multiple — a ratio of median incomes to median house prices — to assign a number value to a city’s unaffordability.

A graphic depicting the median multiple of housing values

Source: SBS News

Across eight countries — Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom and the US — Hong Kong was the most unaffordable city with a median multiple of 16.7.

Sydney was second on the list with a median multiple of 13.3, followed by Vancouver at 12.3, San Jose at 11.9, Los Angeles at 10.9, Honolulu at 10.5, Melbourne at 9.8, San Francisco and Adelaide at 9.7, San Diego and 9.5, and Toronto at 9.3.

A graphic depicting the affordability of Australian cities by median multiple

Source: SBS News

The US’ Pittsburgh, Rochester and St Louis were the three most affordable cities.

Brisbane and Perth were listed as ‘severely unaffordable’.

Home values nationally have risen by more than 35 per cent since the pandemic kicked off in 2020 but growth has not been spread evenly, according to real estate data company CoreLogic.

Price growth across hotspots Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide has vastly outpaced gains posted in other urban centres, including Hobart, Melbourne, Canberra, Darwin and Sydney.

Existential threat

None of the 94 cities measured by Demographia’s international report were listed as ‘affordable’.

A graphic depicting the most unaffordable cities by median multiple

Source: SBS News

The report describes an “existential threat to the middle class”.

“Affordability is disappearing in high-income nations as housing costs now far outpace income growth,” the study said.

“The crisis stems principally from land use policies that artificially restrict housing supply, driving up land prices and making home ownership unattainable for many.”

Explaining why they added the new category of ‘impossibly unaffordable’, the authors said “The term ‘impossible’ was selected to convey the extreme difficulty faced by middle-income households in affording housing at a median multiple of 9.0.
“This level of unaffordability did not exist just over three decades ago.”
Hong Kong has the lowest home ownership rate of all the cities surveyed, at just 51 per cent, while Singapore had the highest at 89 per cent, in part due to the government’s commitment to public housing.

With additional reporting by AAP.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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