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Soaring construction costs drop US housing affordability to lowest level in a decade


February 8, 2022
By National Association of Home Builders

Supply-chain bottlenecks that put upward pressure on U.S. home prices along with rising interest rates contributed to housing affordability falling to a 10-year low. And ongoing production challenges and the likelihood of higher interest rates in the months ahead as the Federal Reserve moves to tighten interest rates threaten to drive housing affordability even lower in 2022.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released today, just 54.2 per cent of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of October and end of December were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $79,900. This is down from the 56.6 per cent of homes sold in the third quarter of 2021 and is the lowest affordability level recorded since the beginning of the revised series in the first quarter of 2012.

“Supply chain disruptions stemming from labor shortages to lumber to home appliances and other building materials are delaying construction times and contributing to higher home prices,” said NAHB chairman Chuck Fowke, a custom home builder from Tampa, Fla. “Policymakers must focus on addressing these issues to help ease rising construction costs that are contributing to housing affordability headwinds.”

“With the Federal Reserve signaling it will begin raising interest rates in March, mortgage rates are expected to further increase in the coming months, after beginning a steady rise in December,” said NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz. “To help ease growing affordability problems, policymakers must take steps to help builders to increase production to meet strong demand and stem the rapid climb in home prices that has taken place over the past year.”

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The HOI shows that the national median home price increased to a record $360,000 in the fourth quarter, up $5,000 from the third quarter and a whopping $40,000 from the first quarter. Meanwhile, average mortgage rates increased by 21 basis points in the fourth quarter to 3.16 per cent from 2.95 per cent in the third quarter. Currently, mortgage rates are running above 3.5 per cent, and this higher trend will further affect affordability later this year.

The most and least affordable markets

Lansing-East Lansing, Mich., was the nation’s most affordable major housing market, defined as a metro with a population of at least 500,000. There, 90.6 per cent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $79,100.

Top five affordable major housing markets:
1.      Lansing-East Lansing, Mich.
2.      Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, Pa.
3.      Pittsburgh, Pa.
4.      Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, Ind.
5.      Akron, Ohio

Meanwhile, Cumberland, Md.-W.Va., was rated the nation’s most affordable small market, with 94 per cent of homes sold in the fourth quarter being affordable to families earning the median income of $60,800.

Top five affordable small housing markets:
1.      Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.
2.      Wheeling, W.Va.-Ohio.
3.      Fairbanks, Alaska
4.      California-Lexington Park, Md.
5.      Springfield, Ohio and Springfield, Ill. (tied)

For the fifth straight quarter, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., remained the nation’s least affordable major housing market. There, just 7.5 per cent of the homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $80,000.

Top five least affordable major housing markets-all located in California:
1.    Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale
2.   Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine
3.   San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco
4.   San Diego-Carlsbad
5.   Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura

The top five least affordable small housing markets were also in the Golden State. At the very bottom of the affordability chart was Salinas, Calif., where 9.7 per cent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $80,900.

Top five least affordable small housing markets-all located in California:
1.      Salinas
2.      Napa
3.      San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande
4.      Santa Maria-Santa Barbara
5.      Santa Cruz-Watsonville

Please visit nahb.org/hoi for tables, historic data and details.