Home Affordability is Moving Out of Reach in Many Places


While the risk of price declines remains low, affordability is increasingly a concern in cities across the U.S., according to the Summer 2017 edition of The Housing and Mortgage Market Review (HaMMR), published by Arch Mortgage Insurance Co. (Arch MI).

San Francisco’s housing costs are the highest in the country, while Detroit’s are the cheapest. Of the nation’s 10 least affordable cities, seven are in California. Meanwhile, price declines are less of a concern, as strong housing market fundamentals suggest the average risk of home price declines over the next two years remains unusually low at only 4%, according to the report.

“A tight job market, interest rates that are still low and an overall shortage of housing are pushing up home prices faster than incomes,” says Dr. Ralph G. DeFranco, global chief economist, mortgage services, of Arch Capital Services Inc.

“That’s good news for those who already own, but bad news for those looking to buy. I expect prices and rates to rise, meaning affordability will only worsen from here,” he remarks. “In fact, once mortgage interest rates reach 5 percent, homeownership in high-cost areas like California could be out of reach for many people who qualify now.”

Over the past two years, affordability has deteriorated the most in San Diego, Miami and the San Francisco Bay Area, as prices shot up faster than incomes. The greater New York City metropolitan area, in contrast, saw the largest improvement in affordability, due to a temporary building boom triggered by the expiration of a local tax credit at the end of 2015. Still, New York is more expensive, relative to median incomes, than all but nine American metro areas.

On a state level, Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming remain most at risk of home price declines, joined this quarter by West Virginia. These states continue to be impacted by weak employment and home sales due to the unwinding of the energy boom or from high inventories of homes for sale.

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