How house poor is Wilton?
Housing does not eat up as much of a Wiltonian’s income as nearby towns, according to the Economic Development Commission (EDC).
In its study of the town economy, presented in part at the June 20 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the commission looked at the average housing prices for nearby towns together with the median incomes those populations earn.
It found that Wilton doesn’t put as much income toward housing at the time of purchase when compared to towns like Darien, Fairfield, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, and Westport.
Using 2014 census data, the EDC determined that median incomes for area towns are as follows:
- Weston — $208,078;
- Darien — $199,444;
- New Canaan — $179,810;
- Wilton — $175,019;
- Westport — $151,771;
- Ridgefield — $147,936;
- Redding — $121,667;
- Norwalk — $76,051.
Wilton’s about in the middle of that pack, but as for what multiple of a Wiltonian’s income buys a house, however, the town is on the low end.
In 2015, Wiltonians put about five times their annual income towards housing, according to the EDC. Rough numbers for the whole set follow here. Keep in mind that these consider the up-front cost of a single-family home to include the first year’s worth of property taxes.
- New Canaan — 10.2x
- Westport — 10.1x
- Ridgefield — 8.8x
- Darien — 8.6x
- Norwalk — 7.5x
- Fairfield — 6.8x
- Wilton — 4.8x
- Weston — 4.8x
- Redding — 4.7x
By this data, Wilton is about tied with Weston and Redding for the least house poor. On the other hand, New Canaan at the top of the list puts 10 years of income towards housing at the time of purchase.
“On average, in other towns you spend more on housing than you would in Wilton,” EDC Vice Chair Vivian Lee-Shuie told The Bulletin. “The value of the house that you get relative to your income is better in Wilton than it is in New Canaan or Westport.”
That’s a good thing. It means that buying in Wilton gives you more bang for your buck, in terms of housing alone, that is.
“Weston too,” Lee-Shuie said. “In Weston, you have great value.”
A high multiple could mean that housing prices are high, but it could also mean, as is the case with Norwalk, that the median income is low.
“Norwalk is high because the median income is low, and in Norwalk, there’s still a fair amount of high-priced homes,” Lee-Shuie said.
She added that this data shows “how much of the average income is tied up in housing costs,” and can help buyers determine what sort of value to expect from varying towns in the area in terms of housing.
“The reality is, from a real estate standpoint, Wilton is not faring worse than other towns; it’s kind of doing what the other towns are doing,” Lee-Shuie said.
The Economic Development Commission’s data for housing price versus income includes values from 2010 and 2015.
Lee-Shuie said large discrepancies between the two values for a given town — as was the case with Ridgefield — can be explained by “one or two major house purchases,” and are not indicative of any overarching economic driver.