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U.S. Housing Affordability Index Reaches New Record High

U.S. Housing Affordability Index Reaches New Record High


Nationwide housing affordability, as measured by the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), rose to a record level during the fourth quarter of 2011, while prospective home buyers continued to feel the constraints of tighter credit standards and a soft economy.

HOI data released Feb. 16 indicated that 75.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,200, the highest percentage recorded in the 20-year history of the index.

"While today's report indicates that homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades, overly restrictive lending conditions confronting home buyers and builders remain significant obstacles to many potential homes sales, even with interest rates at historically low levels," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.

In Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, Pa., the most affordable major housing market in the country during the fourth quarter, 95.1 percent of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to households earning the area's median family income of $54,900.

Also ranking at the top of the most affordable major housing markets, in descending order were Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.; Modesto, Calif.; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Kokomo, Ind., where 99.2 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2011 were affordable to families earning the median income of $59,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Fairbanks, Alaska; Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.; Lima, Ohio; and Rockford, Ill.

In New York-White Plain-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., the least affordable major housing market during 2011's fourth quarter, 29.0 percent of all homes sold were affordable to those earning the area's median income of $67,400. This was the 15th consecutive quarter in which the New York metropolitan division held this position.

Other major metro areas at the bottom of the affordability index included Honolulu; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., respectively.

Ocean City, N.J., where 47.5 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $70,100, was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Laredo, Texas; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.; and Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo HOI is a measure of the percentage of homes sold in a given area that are affordable to families earning that area's median income during a specific quarter. Prices of new and existing homes sold are collected from actual court records by First American Real Estate Solutions, a marketing company. Mortgage financing conditions incorporate interest rates on fixed- and adjustable-rate loans reported by the Federal Housing Finance Board.


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