Let’s look at that that Money Magazine list of the top 25 towns with affordable housing again. It is interesting for what it doesn’t say almost as much for what it does. As I said, it appears half the towns are either in Ohio or upstate New York, and the three Pennsylvania towns in the top 10 are all in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. The average house prices on the list are in the $85k-$95k range, and in only three towns are the prices over $100,000.
The list doesn’t tell us why houses in these towns are so cheap, but we can take some good guesses. While the OH-PA-NY Great Lakes region isn’t hemorrhaging workers like it was in the 1970s and 1980s, population growth is still generally negative. Cleveland, the BBC reported this week, is the sub-prime mortgage capital of the United States, and its environs are blighted with foreclosed and abandoned buildings (hat tip). Likewise, Buffalo and Pittsburgh have large stocks of vacant housing (Buffalo is #2 in the nation, according to Wikipedia). While it’s somewhat unfair for these cities to stand in for the entire region, the fact that the majority of the towns on Money’s list are clustered in three states has to say something. It’s classic economics really, low demand for houses due to fleeing population plus surplus housing stock (to say nothing of the quality) equals low home prices.
Nevertheless, I’ve always imagined Buffalo and Pittsburgh to be nice places to live, if you can stand the weather and can find a decent job worthy of a college graduate. And that latter caveat is the catch.