Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
Sixty-eight homes, in some Detroit neighborhoods.
It is far from a secret that purchasing a home in New York City is an expensive feat. The average home in the United States will set you back $179,000, according to Zillow; the average home in the five boroughs costs just under $600,000. But in Manhattan’s SoHo, home to a bustling high-end shopping area, scores of excellent restaurants, and converted warehouse apartments, the price is much higher: almost $3 million ($2,912,792) for the average home, according to Zillow’s estimates. In fact, the real estate data company ranks SoHo as among the most expensive ZIP codes in the entire country, behind only a handful of incredibly pricey California and coastal Florida neighborhoods.
Just how many houses could one buy for the price of one SoHo apartment?
With help from my Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) colleague Charlotta Mellander, I decided to crunch the numbers and find out. We pulled 2014 housing data on more than 11,000 U.S. ZIP codes from Zillow’s Home Value Index, which estimates the median price for given areas across the country. In the map below, based on Zillow’s data, the places where the price of one SoHo apartment can purchase the most homes are in dark purple; those where the price of a SoHo apartment can purchase the fewest homes are in the lightest pink.
It’s a familiar pattern. The areas where housing is least expensive are in the Midwest and South, while those where homes cost the most are on the West Coast, in the prosperous sections of Colorado, and along the Boston-Washington corridor.
The table below shows the large metros in which home buyers could purchase the most homes for the price of one in SoHo. These are mostly in Southern and Rustbelt cities. In Memphis, for example, one could purchase more than 38 homes; in Detroit, one could purchase 29. In the Sunbelt metro of Las Vegas, one could purchase nearly 18 houses for the price of one in SoHo.
Large metros where you can buy the most homes for the price of one SoHo apartment
|Rank||City||Average Number of Homes for One SoHo Apartment|
|2||St. Louis, MO||34|
|6||Oklahoma City, OK||28|
|10||Las Vegas, NV||18|
The gap in housing prices is even more disparate when comparing SoHo to specific ZIP codes from Zillow’s data, as shown on the map below. In cities like Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw in Michigan, or Toledo in Ohio, a potential apartment owner could snap up whole blocks of average homes in certain ZIP codes: more than 50 in Toledo or Saginaw, and nearly 70 in the city of Detroit. Buyers in one ZIP code in Mahoning County, home of Youngstown, Ohio, could theoretically afford to purchase a grand total of 115 homes for the price of a single SoHo apartment.
SoHo is expensive even by the standards of America’s priciest metros. For just one SoHo apartment, one can buy 3.8 average homes in San Jose (the heart of Silicon Valley), 4.7 in uber-expensive San Francisco, 6.1 in L.A., 8.9 in Boston, and 9.4 in Washington, D.C.
Where we live determines our access to jobs, networks, schools, and myriad factors that affect the upward mobility of future generations. The incredible gaps in real estate prices on these maps portray a country divided not only by income, but by where people can afford to live. Beyond its singular economic landscape, SoHo’s mind-boggling real estate prices signal something more—the fact that America’s growing inequality is increasingly baked into its geography.