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Real estate affordability problems in Southern states

August 11, 2004

Working-class incomes lag behind home prices, study finds

Inman News

Elementary school teachers, police officers, licensed practical nurses, retail salespersons and janitors cannot afford to purchase median-priced homes based on median income in a number of metropolitan areas of the country – and particularly in some Southern areas – according to "Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in Counties," a study produced by the Center for Housing Policy for the National Association of Counties.

Atlanta, Ga.; Baton Rouge, La; Birmingham, Ala.; Charleston, S.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; and Melbourne, Fla., were the most unaffordable metropolitan areas for people working in these occupations.

On the rental side, the annual study found that, based on median income, retail salespersons and janitors must pay an excessive portion of their income in order to rent a one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartment in the majority of cities studied.

While housing experts often focus on housing affordability issues in the Northeast and West, the study found that "key occupations in the majority of Southern metropolitan areas studied are dealing with significant housing affordability problems." For example, police officers, firefighters and elementary school teachers earning typical salaries cannot afford to purchase a median-priced home in Flagler County, in the Daytona Beach, Fla., metropolitan area; Fulton County, in the Atlanta metropolitan area; and Buncombe County, in the Asheville, N.C., metro area.

The county-specific rental data also reveals that retail salespersons, janitors and construction laborers in Flagler County and Fulton County must pay an excessive portion of their income in order to rent one- and two-bedroom apartments. In Buncombe County, janitors are unable to afford a one-bedroom apartment, and a retail salesperson and construction laborer must also pay more than what is considered affordable to rent a two-bedroom apartment based on typical salaries.

"Although affordability issues continue to be prevalent in areas that we have come to expect, such as the Northeast and West, these latest findings demonstrate the growing home-ownership disparities in the South for our nation’s vital community workers," said NHC Chairman G. Allan Kingston, president and CEO of Century Housing. "Additionally, in all but a handful of the Metropolitan areas studied, the current rental market is forcing retail salespersons and janitors to pay in excess of what is considered affordable in order to rent a one- or two-bedroom apartment based on median income."

"This survey shows that the lack of affordable housing in America’s counties is a growing problem, affecting working families in urban, suburban and rural areas," said National Association of Counties president Angelo D. Kyle. "The men and women who police our streets, fight our fires and educate our children deserve the opportunity to live in the community in which they work. The National Association of Counties will continue to work with the Administration, Congress and industry leaders to push for sound affordable housing policy."

The six occupations studied were police officers, firefighters, elementary school teachers, retail salespersons, janitors and construction laborers. The Center for Housing Policy is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference. Freddie Mac paid for the study.

Copyright: Inman News Features

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