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State of the Nation’s Housing highlights paradox of access and affordability

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

A recovery may be beginning in housing, but serious problems remain, particularly for households of low and moderate income. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard released State of the Nation’s Housing 2012 on June 14 to offer insights on housing markets around the country and where those markets may be headed. While the report offers subdued hopes that “home prices may well find a bottom this year” leading to a rebound in prices and construction activity, it also highlights the paradoxical reduction in access even as homeownership becomes more affordable:

  • Rebounding rental markets are pushing housing costs higher for renters, leading to a sharp spike in housing cost burdens (as also document by the Center for Housing Policy in Housing Landscape 2012).
  • Limited access to mortgage credit prevents many low- and moderate-income households from achieving homeownership, even though housing prices are low relative to incomes.

The report’s conclusion speaks for itself:

Expanding the supply of safe, decent housing that is affordable to the growing numbers of low-income Americans is one of those critical needs—not only to ensure quality of life for cost-burdened individuals and families, but also to repair the social fabric of entire communities damaged by the recession. Now is not the time to cut back on housing programs that have had demonstrated success in providing a springboard to opportunity for many of the nation’s most vulnerable households.

Read more in State of the Nation’s Housing 2012, and also see this video Q&A with the Joint Center’s Eric Belsky.

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