The chief executive of Boston Community Capital, Elyse Cherry, has a guest editorial in the New York Times that goes into the fact that the housing crisis may be a memory for most homeowners, it was just the beginning for lower-income homeowners and lower-income workers trying to buy a home.
The opinion piece includes a new analysis of hard data, combined with Cherry’s ground-eye view of the problems in low-income neighborhoods.
She makes the case that the national numbers that show a broad housing recovery are masking huge inequalities when one drills down to the neighborhood level and that the basic economics of homeownership make that unlikely to change.
Here’s a taste:
But for many lower-income Americans, the housing bust of 2008 was just a prelude to a new crisis. In many areas, housing prices are stuck below their inflated pre-bubble levels. Until we deal with this fact, entire communities will continue to struggle with high foreclosure rates and a lack of economic mobility.
The problem is rooted in a consequence of the post-2008 return to sane mortgage underwriting practices. Loan officers are no longer handing out mortgages left and right, but instead are tying them to borrowers’ income. As a result, housing prices can rise only if incomes rise, or if people can spend a greater share of their income on housing.
However, the poorest fifth of Americans already spend more than 40 percent of their income on housing, compared with less than 31 percent for the upper fifth, according to government data. Meanwhile, real wages for most Americans have been flat or falling for decades. Absent an extraordinary increase in income for low-income families, home prices in low-income areas aren’t going anywhere.
This disparity between high- and low-income neighborhoods is evident in the numbers. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index for March was over the March 2004 index, and national median home prices, according to the real estate website Zillow, are just over what they were 10 years ago.
But the numbers in many of our nation’s low-income neighborhoods are far different. In Chicago, home values in Sheffield Neighbors, a well-off neighborhood on the city’s north side, have risen almost 9 percent in the last 10 years, according to Zillow. But in the working-class neighborhood of Wrightwood, southwest of the Loop, values are 18 percent lower than they were 10 years ago. And for Chicago as a whole, home values are still 22 percent below where they were 10 years ago.
For the full piece, click here.