The Rise of the Million-Dollar Neighborhood and the Death of the Middle Class

rise in million-dollar neighborhoods

The proliferation of million-dollar neighborhoods in the United States signals a concerning trend amidst a nationwide homelessness crisis, showcasing the glaring disparities in wealth and housing.

The number of million-dollar neighborhoods across the United States has reached a record high. Unsurprisingly, so has nationwide homelessness. The structural follies of wealth inequality and land inequality go hand-in-hand with homelessness, denoting an undeniable link between the suppression of low and middle-income workers and the success of a small, elite group.

The US Has Established a Record-Setting $550 Million Cities Right at the Height of a Nationwide Homeless Crisis

It is a victory cry in the eyes of many. Wealth and opulence abound in North America, with sprawling cities, stunning skylines, and lavish real estate at every turn. At a time of hyperinflation, extreme rent burden, and endless obstacles to homeownership for average Americans, we witness the rise of the million-dollar neighborhood, and boy, does it come at a price.

We recently sat down with Sarah Saadian, the Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Field Organizing for the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. She drew from her decade of experience in affordable housing policy to explain how having so many million-dollar cities can be detrimental.

“Part of what’s driving those higher housing costs is a shortage of housing,” Saadian said. “And our research shows that there’s a shortage of 7.3 million homes nationwide that should be affordable and available to people with the lowest incomes. Let me tell you how that adversely affects the middle class.”

“Oftentimes, what that means is that extremely low-income households have no choice but to rent homes that are not affordable to them and that would be otherwise available to households that make relatively higher incomes.”

“That’s a long-convoluted way of saying that as the shortage of housing at the very low end of the income spectrum continues to grow, it puts pressure on all renters, and it pushes up housing costs,” she continued. “So, one of the best ways to make housing more affordable is to invest in building more housing supply through the National Housing Trust fund, through public housing that’s targeted to serve households with the greatest needs.”

While It Is in the Public’s Best Interest to Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing, Unaffordable Housing is Taking Precedence Once Again

The price of the average home has now peaked at well over half a million dollars. Some factors influencing this include:

  • Hyperinflation
  • Stagnant wages
  • High costs of construction
  • Low or sometimes non-existent incentives to construct affordable homes

All of the above-listed factors contribute to making housing grossly unaffordable for most. However, the main reason we lack 7.3 million affordable housing units is simple: We’re not building them.

In the end, much of the housing crisis can be chalked up to a supply-and-demand issue, making it difficult to celebrate the so-called “victory” of having way too many million-dollar cities.

It isn’t that wealth in itself is a problem. Instead, the issue is when the wealth inequality window widens to extremes, creating an increasingly hostile landscape dominated by haves and have-nots.

Investing in Affordable Housing Would, Theoretically, Bring Housing Prices Down. Here’s Why.

“If, communally, we were to invest in building more housing supply through the National Housing Trust fund, this action would also reduce rent pressure on other households. Then, you could see housing prices start to come down,” Saadian explained.

Such actions would serve the vast majority of the general public, but the name of the real-estate game is secretly keeping inventory low and competition high. Doing so sends the value of these already expensive homes through the roof while keeping low and middle-income earners tightly locked out of homeownership and forced into a perpetual state of lifelong renting.

With the prospect of mega-landlords buying up nearly 40% of the housing stock and raising rents to astronomical highs, only one thing can potentially come of this: the death of the American middle class and the perpetuation of even more houselessness. 

Did You Know? The Regions Boasting the Most Million-Dollar Cities are Also the States with the Highest Rates of Homelessness

If you seek further proof that a lack of affordable housing is overwhelmingly to blame for the homeless crisis, you needn’t look any further than Zillow’s list of the states that boast the most million-dollar cities. Here are the top states, in order:

  1. California       
  2. New York       
  3. New Jersey    
  4. Florida           
  5. Massachusetts            
  6. Colorado        
  7. Washington   
  8. Hawaii           
  9. Texas              
  10. Maryland     

 Here is a look at the states with the highest rates of homelessness, also listed in order:

  1. California 
  2. New York 
  3. Florida 
  4. Washington 
  5. Texas 
  6. Oregon 
  7. Massachusetts 
  8. Arizona 
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Georgia

As you can see, six of the top ten states with the highest rates of homelessness also have the most million-dollar neighborhoods. Many of them rank in the exact same order on both lists.

Of the four states that collectively contain more than half of all homeless people nationwide, namely, California, New York, Florida, and Washington, all appear on the top ten lists for hosting the most million-dollar neighborhoods.

Talk to Your Legislators About Solving Wealth Inequality and Subsequent Homelessness

It is one thing to build million-dollar cities and another to build them at the expense of the rest of the population. As wealth inequality continues to grow, homelessness explodes nationwide. The ties run deep but could still be severed. Tell your local legislators to make housing a human right for everyone today.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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