The nation is in the throes of a housing downturn that is shaping up to be the worst in a generation, finds The State of the Nation’s Housing report issued today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. While the falloff in housing starts, new home sales, and existing home sales already rivals the worst downturns in the post World War II era, home price declines and mortgage defaults are the worst on records that date back to the 1960s and 1970s.
The study presents a dispiriting picture of how severe and structurally ingrained housing affordability challenges have become. By 2006, 17.7 million households–about 15.8 percent of all households–were spending more than half their income on housing, an increase of 3.8 million just since 2001. Even 34 percent of households with incomes equivalent to 1-2 times the federal minimum wage, and 15 percent with incomes equivalent to 2-3 times this wage, spend more than half their incomes on housing. With the economy spinning out a growing proportion of full and part-time jobs with wages in these ranges, prospects for a meaningful reduction in affordability problems remain dim.
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•Subprime mortgages are nearly double for Hispanics and African Americans – EPI Snapshot, June 11, 2008