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Study finds housing costs outstrip wages

"Some 61 percent of working people who spend more than half their salaries on housing live outside cities"

The Associated Press, November 20, 2002

WASHINGTON - Many more low- and moderate-income working families are spending at least half their salaries on rent or mortgages, according to a study released Tuesday by affordable housing advocates.

More than 4 million households fell into that category last year, a 67 percent increase in four years. The surge is due increases in housing prices outstripping wages, said the Center for Housing Policy and its parent organization, the National Housing Conference. The result is many people must cut spending elsewhere, such as retirement savings, researchers said.

The study identified low to moderate-income families as those who worked the equivalent of a full-time job and earned between the minimum wage of $10,712 and 120 percent of the median income in their area.

The report dispels the notion that the housing crunch is most severe for renters and for the working poor in cities, researchers said. Some 61 percent of working people who spend more than half their salaries on housing live outside cities, the study found.

And between 1999 and 2001, the number of homeowners who spent more than half their income on housing rose 36 percent, outpacing the 24 percent rise among renters. A higher number of low to moderate-income families are spending more than half of their income on housing. SOURCE: National Housing Conference.

Ann Scbnare, president of the Center for Housing Po1icy, said part of the problem stems from the slowing economy. But a lot of the problem is also asking the question of how we can create conditions in this country to create affordable housing."

Previously released government statistics show that the median household income rose about 14 percent between 1997 and 2001 to $42,228, while the median price of new home rose 20 percent to roughly $175,200. The median rent over the last three months of 2001 was about $535, up more than 17 percent from the same period in 1997. The figures were not adjusted for inflation.