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U.S. Housing Too Expensive and Too Cheap at the Same Time

Whether or not U.S. housing is affordable comes down not only to cost but also to wages. Both vary dramatically from city to city.
July 1, 2018, 5am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Housing affordability in the United States shows extreme variety. In the Midwest, where many homes are losing value or gaining it slowly, it can be hard to build wealth through home equity, but in the popular cities of the west coast, housing is out of reach for many. "In the median U.S. neighborhood, house prices are approximately three times annual household income," Cecile Murray and Jenny Schuetz write for Brookings. Still there's plenty of variance.

"Almost all Southern and Midwestern households live in affordable neighborhoods, while large shares of Northeastern and Western neighborhoods have price-income ratios that would stretch middle-income family budgets," Murray and Schuetz write.

This gap comes with it's own suite of problems. In some areas where homes have lost value or been flat, home owners see little reason to maintain homes that aren't very valuable. "Neighborhoods with persistently low home price-income ratios raise concerns about the ability of families to build wealth because home equity is the main source of wealth for middle-income families," Murray and Schuetz write. Meanwhile, cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco struggle with homelessness and a lack of affordable housing to buy or rent.

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Published on Thursday, June 21, 2018 in The Brookings Institute
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