Priciest Place to Live in the U.S.? Surprise: It's Not NYC

The average San Franciscan has to make a handsome salary to afford a modest two-bedroom.

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Hey New Yorkers, if you think it's hard affording a place to live in the Big Apple, just ask Washingtonians or San Franciscans. Apparently they have it even worse according to data analysis from the Urban Institute, which compared average incomes and rental prices in metropolitan areas across the nation.

San Franciscans need to make more than $70,000 to afford rent for a modest two-bedroom apartment in their city, followed by residents of Washington, D.C., who need to take home around $60,000 to afford digs in the capital city. New Yorkers weren't too far behind, having to earn around $55,000 to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

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Average earnings in the D.C. metro area just barely top the $60,000 threshold, according to Margery Turner of the Urban Institute, which means that while skilled workers probably have the means to cover housing costs, access to decent, affordable housing for lower-skilled workers is out of reach in many cases.

"If you're a computer professional, you probably earn much more [than $60,000 on average], but if you're a personal service worker, you may earn only half of what you need to afford that apartment," Turner wrote in a recent blog post.

The situation isn't much different in San Francisco, and may be even worse due to the city's high unemployment rate, around 10 percent.

There is one city doing things right, according to Turner, and you might be surprised: Oklahoma City.

[Read: Fewer Foreclosures, But No Relief for the Housing Market.]

"Somehow, it avoided the excesses of the boom years, and its economy has weathered the downturn better than most," Turner writes. Though wages for service workers are low, housing costs are low as well. The unemployment rate has stayed relatively low as well.

In Oklahoma City, residents need to make just under $30,000 to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Average incomes for the area come closer to $40,000.

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley

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