tampabay.com

Priced out of affordable housing

Early edition

By JAMES THORNER
Published January 12, 2007


Unless you’re a champion saver, affording a home on a single teacher’s, police officer’s or nurse’s salary is getting near impossible in the Tampa Bay area.

Thanks to frantic housing appreciation the past 5 years, you’d have to make $67,828 to afford the median priced home of $198,000 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area.

Just three years ago, yearly pay of $40,200 sufficed to afford a median priced home of $129,000.

The housing market has left professions such as elementary school teacher behind. What was easily affordable on a teacher’s $42,120 salary in 2003 is out of reach on her $43,335 salary in 2006.

The numbers come from a “Paycheck to Paycheck” study commissioned by the National Housing Conference. The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit is an affordable housing advocate.

Recent declines in home prices could improve the affordability index in 2007, but much of the imbalance lingers from the multi-year real estate boom, said Jeffrey Lubell, whose research group did the study.

“On average there was a slight softening in home prices, but housing remains out of reach for working families in many professions,’’ Lubell said.

It could be worse. Tampa ranked 98th, near the middle of the pack, in a review of national median home prices.

California owned the top ten most expensive housing markets. In San Francisco, where the median home price is $759,000, you’d have to make $260,000 a year.

In establishing the income required of a home buyer, the study assumes the family had only one bread earner. It defined an affordable home as one costing no more than three times a person’s salary.

In many cases, 2006 salaries barely budged from three years ago, while housing soared 53 percent. There were exceptions: Pay for electricians rose about a third, likely from a shortage of skilled hands in the construction industry.

The numbers were no surprise to the Tampa Bay Partnership, the regional economic development group that flagged housing as a hindrance to business recruitment.

In a 2006 “scorecard” that compared the region with Dallas, Atlanta, Raleigh, Charlotte and Jacksonville, Tampa ranked last in housing affordability.

“You’ve got fairly high wages in most of those places,” said Larry Henson, the partnership’s business intelligence officer. “And houses in places like Dallas and Atlanta are still incredibly cheap.

James Thorner can be reached at thorner@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3313.