As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the White House has started issuing checks of up to $1,200 to Americans, some of whom will no doubt use the money to help cover their mortgage or rent payments.

Over 75 percent of U.S. renters and almost 50 percent of homeowners could pay one month of housing expenses with $1,200, according to data from Redfin. However, that money will certainly go further in some cities than others.

Redfin compiled a list of the 50 largest metropolitan areas and ranked them by the percentage of homeowners who could pay most or all of a one-month mortgage payment plus utility costs with $1,200 and $2,400 (assuming some households will receive two checks), and then did the same calculation for the percentage of renters who could cover one-month rent and utility costs with these amounts.


Indianapolis, a metro area where the median monthly mortgage payment is $1,254, contained the greatest percentage of homeowners who could cover monthly mortgage and utility costs with $1,200 at 66 percent of homeowners.

Louisville, Kentucky, and Birmingham, Alabama, also had a majority of homeowners who could cover most of their mortgage and utility costs with the stimulus check amount at 65 percent of homeowners. Memphis, Tennessee (64 percent) and Buffalo, New York (63 percent) rounded out the list of the top five metros where the stimulus check would go the furthest for homeowners.

“In Indianapolis, the overwhelming feeling is that when our local economy does come back, it will come back with a vengeance,” Jake Johnson, an Indianapolis Redfin market manager, said in a statement. “With the cost of living in Indiana already so low, many residents may use the government stimulus to be good neighbors by supporting local businesses, though workers in the hardest-hit industries, such as hospitality, may use it to pay their mortgages.”

In San Jose, California, however, which made the last (least affordable) spot on the list, the median monthly mortgage payment is $3,371 and only 6 percent of homeowners would be able to cover their mortgage payment and utilities with a stimulus check. San Francisco, California (8 percent of homeowners); New York, New York (11 percent); Los Angeles, California (13 percent); and San Diego, California (14 percent) followed San Jose as the top five metro areas where the fewest homeowners could cover their mortgage payments and utilities with the stimulus check amount.

Renters, on the other hand, are best off in Buffalo, New York, where the median monthly rent payment is $809 and a whopping 94 percent of renters could cover most or all of their monthly rent and utilities with $1,200.

The remaining top five most affordable metro areas where the stimulus check would make the biggest impact all fell not far behind Buffalo in terms of median rent cost and percentage of individuals who could cover rent with $1,200: Cleveland, Ohio (median rent is $804, 93 percent of renters can cover monthly housing costs with $1,200); St. Louis, Missouri ($891 median rent, 93 percent of renters); Birmingham, Alabama, ($892 median rent, 93 percent of renters); and Memphis, Tennessee ($893 median rent, 93 percent of renters).


Those metro areas where the smallest percentage of renters could cover their rental and utility costs with $1,200 had some overlap with those least affordable metro areas on Redfin’s mortgage payments ranking list: San Jose, California (median rent is $2,283, 22 percent of renters can cover monthly housing costs with $1,200); San Francisco, California ($1,944 median rent, 32 percent of renters); Washington, D.C. ($1,670 median rent, 40 percent of renters); San Diego, California ($1,668 median rent, 42 percent of renters); Seattle, Washington ($1,563 median rent, 47 percent of renters).

“In every metro area, there was a higher portion of renters than homeowners that could cover monthly costs with $1,200, as rent is typically less expensive than a mortgage,” Lily Katz, Redfin data journalist and the study’s author, wrote. “Providence, Rhode Island, showed the largest disparity, with 87 percent of renters who could cover monthly costs using $1,200, compared with less than one-third of homeowners. The metro with the smallest disparity was San Jose, where 22 percent of renters could cover monthly costs with one check, compared with 6 percent of homeowners.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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