The Housing Affordability Crisis Has Gone Global

By: Anneken Tappe · January 05, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

An International Trend

Finding affordable housing in the U.S. is a challenge complicated by insufficient housing stock that hasn’t kept up with demand, migration patterns, and the high borrowing costs that came in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation.

But Americans aren’t alone in this struggle. Across the globe, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for average citizens to afford city life, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Compounding Issues

Ranking 173 cities around the world by quality of life, based on factors such as stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure, the EIU report suggests that the highest quality of life might not come for free.

Cities like Zurich and Geneva in Switzerland, or Copenhagen in Denmark are considered some of the best cities in which to live, but also top the list of the most expensive.

Places with high cost of living often boast high-paying career opportunities, though the pandemic has managed to diffuse some of that dynamic, at least in the U.S. where more people work remotely. However, as a growing number of workers, empowered by the remote work option, set sail to America’s more affordable Southwest, prices there have gone up, too.

Diamonds in the Rough

Much like in the U.S., limited inventory is fueling this affordability crisis elsewhere. Cities like Sydney and Vancouver, along with Zurich and Geneva, are experiencing significant housing shortages, driving up prices and pricing out average citizens. The same is true in many American metros.

But there are still a few places that seem to be in the sweet spot of high quality of life and better affordability, such as Austria’s capital Vienna, which remains a relatively cheap place to live. Social programs, especially its renowned housing system, have kept costs down for residents so far.

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