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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

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after third woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.