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Survey: Metro Detroit is one of the world's most affordable housing markets

Metro Detroit has any number of problems, but finding affordable housing isn’t one of them.

In fact—by one measure at least—the region offers some of the most affordable housing anywhere in the world.

Demographia, a St Louis-based public policy consulting firm, conducts an annual international housing affordability. This year’s version looked at 86 major metropolitan areas and 386 cities “of all sizes” across 9 countries, according to Demographia’s Wendell Cox.

Using the ratio of median home price to household income, the survey ranked metro areas by affordability. With a score of 2.1, Detroit ranked most affordable among major metro areas worldwide, and fifth-most affordable overall.

“Detroit is at the bottom of the range of affordability, which we consider to be [a score of] 2-3,” Cox said.

The 28 most affordable major markets worldwide are in the US, the study found. Grand Rapids was ranked the fifth-most affordable.

While it may not be a big problem now in Metro Detroit, housing unaffordability is an increasingly serious issue in parts of the US and much of the world, Cox said.

The Demographia survey found that much of the growing unaffordability is driven by “smart growth” policies meant to contain urban sprawl and limit cities’ growth. That’s a particular problem for low- and middle-income households whose single biggest expense is housing costs.

Cox suggests that in that respect at least, Detroit has benefitted from a lack of land use planning. “In markets that have adopted strong urban planning policies, housing affordability has frankly been destroyed,” he said.

“When urban planning reduces the standard of living and increases poverty…then we need to put it aside and re-orient our priorities.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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