Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Around the world, people are streaming into big cities. But owning a home in these places is out of reach for many Americans — and where most end up renting, the idea of a quick zip to work is a cruel joke.

By the numbers: This is a global issue. A recent survey by Demographia, a firm that researches cities, looked at 309 metros in 8 countries. Of these, just 9 housing markets (all in the U.S.) were judged to be "affordable" — meaning that the ratio of average housing prices to income was 3 to 1 or less. The most affordable were Pittsburgh, Rochester, and Oklahoma City.

  • But 29 cities were severely unaffordable, including 13 in the U.S., 7 in the U.K., and 5 in Australia. The worst was Hong Kong, with a ratio of 20 to 1. Vancouver was next at 12.6, and Sydney at 11.7.

The "smart city" concept may exacerbate the affordability crisis. Joel Kotkin, a professor at Chapman University, said the term currently connotes killing single-family homes in favor of dense living arrangements and public transportation.

  • It also means "no kids, because unless you are rich, there are no families," Kotkin told Axios. "Most people over the age of 30 want a single-family home with a backyard. But people live in a crate and take a bus for an hour to work."
  • "The whole paradigm is off."

Some urban experts blame "urban containment" policies that seek to build up density by limiting the contours of a metropolitan area. "All cities with severe unaffordability have adopted one form or another of urban containment," said urban policy expert Wendell Cox.

  • One answer, experts say, is to loosen up by lifting regulations to enable cities to grow.

What's next: "We ought to redefine what smart is," says Kotkin. "To me, smart is upward mobility, maintaining the middle class, and helping the working class."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Parties trade election influence accusations at Big Tech hearing

Photo: Michael Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

A Senate hearing Wednesday with Big Tech CEOs became the backdrop for Democrats and Republicans to swap accusations of inappropriate electioneering.

Why it matters: Once staid tech policy debates are quickly becoming a major focal point of American culture and political wars, as both parties fret about the impact of massive social networks being the new public square.

1 hour ago - World

Germany goes back into lockdown

Photo: Fabrizio Bensch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will enact one of Europe's strictest coronavirus lockdowns since spring, closing bars and restaurants nationwide for most of November, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Germany is the latest European country to reimpose some form of lockdown measures amid a surge in cases across the continent.

How overhyping became an election meddling tool

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As online platforms and intelligence officials get more sophisticated about detecting and stamping out election meddling campaigns, bad actors are increasingly seeing the appeal of instead exaggerating their own interference capabilities to shake Americans' confidence in democracy.

Why it matters: It doesn't take a sophisticated operation to sow seeds of doubt in an already fractious and factionalized U.S. Russia proved that in 2016, and fresh schemes aimed at the 2020 election may already be proving it anew.