Toronto headlines and news articles declared their city was no longer the second least affordable place across the United States and Canada. The Canadian city was “beat out,” said the Daily Hive, by “one unexpected US city: Boise, Idaho.”

Boise is officially the second least affordable housing market on the continent. When it comes to housing, only Vancouver, B.C., is worse for home buyers, according to a new study from Oxford Economics, an economic forecasting company in England.

To determine the affordability of a housing market, the Oxford Economics’ Housing Affordability Indices look at whether a city’s median-income household can afford a median-priced home.

With a Housing Affordability Indices score of 1.61, Boise’s home prices are 72% above what a median-income household can afford. The report calls Boise “the most rapidly increasing [Housing Affordability Indices] of any metro in our U.S. projections.”

(Oxford listed the following cities where “potential buyers will find homes most out of reach”: Vancouver, Boise, Toronto, Portland, Hamilton (Ontario), Las Vegas, San Jose, and L.A.)


Oxford has not yet made all of its income and housing numbers public. However, Intermountain Multiple Listing Service data put Ada County, Idaho, homes at a median price of $534,950. The city of Boise lists a one-person household median income to be $52,700 and a two-person median income to be $60,200.

While Canada has long dominated the list, the report says the United States is catching up. The report predicts “affordability will deteriorate fastest in the West.” California, Idaho, Washington and Utah all are showing signs of people struggling to buy homes on median state incomes, according to the report.

“Falling affordability will also be evident in smaller western metros whose economic boom has only strengthened in Covid’s wake,” the report says. “Boise, Idaho, offers a clear example of quickly deteriorating housing affordability dynamics.”

Vanessa Fry, who studies housing issues as the interim director of the Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University, said that when housing becomes less affordable, certain groups of people begin to get priced out of an area. She worries that young people who grew up in Boise will either have to leave or, if they’ve already left, will not be able to move back.

“Let’s say there was a family and their children went away to college,” Fry said. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for those college students to return back home and have to find a place of their own that is affordable.”

To retain young people, Fry said it’s important for communities to find ways for people of all income levels to not have to put more than 30% of their income toward housing.

“Whether it’s first-time home buyers or first-time renters, what we’re going to see is our economy is going to be full of workers beginning to age,” Fry said. “Because these people (who are) new to the workforce, those youth that are just graduating from college, or maybe they’re going into a more of a professional life to be an electrician or a plumber after high school, where are they going to find a place to live if it’s not within their ability to access because it’s too costly?”

The Oxford Economics report found the most affordable cities in the U.S. or Canada to be Chicago; Quebec City; and Columbus, Ohio.