There are some good interactive utilities out there for determining housing affordability based upon various metrics. The Center for Neighborhood Technology has a Housing + Transportation Affordability Index and the New York Times has a calculator that determines whether it is better to rent or buy based upon selectable criteria. There’s also WalkScore, which determines the walkability of your residence to basic needs. My place gets a 68/100.
Before the housing disasterbacle here in Cleveland, affordability based upon the NYT calculator would have been giving me returns on home-ownership after 3 years. Who knows how that’s changed. The Housing and Transportation visual for Cleveland basically fit what I expected. The poorer areas with lower property taxes fit the criteria for affordability, while the nicer areas [outer rings, non-Cleveland-incorporated] are over the suggested benchmark. Of course, the map just provides basic data, there isn’t much interpretation going on in terms of statistical comparisons of other data associated with our area. The advanced menu is a bit more informative.