New Data Outlines Housing Affordability Challenges

March 30, 2017
Two new data studies detailed the continued challenges in finding affordability options for homeowners and renters.
 
One in every four U.S. county housing markets were less affordable than their historic affordability averages during the first quarter of 2017, according to new research from ATTOM Data Solutions. In this research report, an affordability index below 100 means that the share of averages wages needed to buy a median-priced home is above the historic average for a given market.
 
ATTOM Data Solutions determined that the national affordability index in the first quarter was 103, down from 108 in the previous quarter and down from 119 a year ago to the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2008. A total of 95 counties out of 379 counties analyzed for this research, or 25 percent, recorded an affordability index below 100 during the first quarter—the highest share of markets below the normal affordability index of 100 since the fourth quarter of 2009.
 
“Home affordability continued to worsen in the first quarter, not surprising given the continued strong growth in home prices combined with the recent rise in mortgage rates,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Stronger wage growth is the silver lining in this report, outpacing home price growth in more than half of the markets for the first time since the first quarter of 2012, when median home prices were still falling nationwide. If that pattern continues, it will help turn the tide in the eroding home affordability trend.”
 
Separately, new research from Zillow has determined that rental affordability is worst in minority neighborhoods than in predominantly white communities. Nationally, renters in predominantly black neighborhoods can expect to spend 43.7 percent of their income on rent, according to Zillow, while renters in Hispanic communities can expect to spend 48.1 percent of their income on rent. In comparison, renters in predominantly white communities can expect to spend 30.7 percent of their income on rent.
 
"This research sheds light on another example of inequality in the housing market," said Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. "Renters in African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods find themselves in a Catch-22 situation: while owning a home is a great way to build wealth, you need to save up some cash to be able to buy. If you're spending close to half of your income on rent, saving up that down payment is going to be incredibly difficult."