When we talk about affordability, it's often in relation to just one economic group, but a new study offers a more nuanced picture of housing affordability in Houston — and good news for a large portion of the middle class.
Houston is America's most affordable housing market for lower- and middle-middle class families, according to LendingTree, which analyzed housing affordability in the nation's 50 largest metros for its study.
The greater Houston metro area clocks in with a median home price of $166,500. That equates to a monthly mortgage payment of $683, according to the online loan marketplace, assuming a 20 percent down payment and mortgage rate of 4.6 percent.
Lower-middle class and middle-middle class families can afford that payment — and then some — says the study. It adheres to the "28 percent rule" in determining an affordable mortgage payment, saying a person shouldn't spend more than that chunk of their annual gross income on housing.
In Houston, lower-middle class families bring in $41,948 and can afford a mortgage payment of up to $979 a month. That's a surplus of $296 a month on the median-priced home. Middle-middle class families in the Houston area see even more savings. Those households bring in $62,922 a year, which means they can afford a mortgage payment up to $1,468 a month, a surplus of $785.
Pittsburgh, No. 2, and Buffalo, New York, No. 3, join Houston as the metros where lower-middle class families have "the easiest time" buying a median-priced home. Dallas, No. 2, and Minneapolis, No. 3, round out the most affordable metros for middle-middle class buyers.
In the Dallas metro area, the only other Texas metro mentioned in the study, the median home price is $174,500, and middle-middle class households earn $63,870 annually. That means the monthly payment on a median-priced home is $716, but a middle-middle class family can afford up to $1,490 a month.
Upper-middle class families fare best in Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; and Hartford, Connecticut. Across the board, the least affordable metros are in California, but the upper-middle class there "still make[s] more than enough money to comfortably pay for a home in any of the nation’s 50 largest metros," the study says.