Nathan Rusch

Spokane is one of few bright spots in affordable housing report

Nathan Rusch, Planning & Development Services, No Phone Number Available

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 10:32 a.m.

Spokane is one of few bright spots in affordable housing report

The current state of affordable housing looks bleak for much of the United States, but that's not the case locally, according to a new report.

Zillow, headquartered in Seattle, is the largest home-related marketplace on the web as well as an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau. Last month, Zillow put out a press release on its report of the affordability of housing in the 100 largest metropolitan areas nationwide.

Zillow determined affordability by comparing what percentage of median incomes in these areas is needed to afford rent or mortgage payments. Those figures are compared to the average percentages during the height of the housing bubble from 1985-1999. What Zillow found is that only 12 metros are more affordable now than they have been historically to both rent and purchase a home.

The rise in housing costs continues to grow faster than people's wages. Nationally, U.S home values rose 6.5 percent annually while rents rose 2.8 percent. Rents, however, have not experience the diminished values that homes did when the Great Recession hit. Rather, rents steadily increased while the nation's paychecks and home values dropped. As of the latest Zillow stats, renters pay 29.5 percent of their income toward rent, as compared to 24.9 percent prior to the housing bubble. This means in 88 of the top 100 largest metros, renters are paying a larger share of their income now than they had in the past - but not in Spokane.

Among the only 12 metropolises to make the cut is our beloved Spokane, Washington. Along with Bakersfield, Buffalo and Pittsburgh, among others, Spokane stands out as one of the very few major urban areas to be less expensive to buy and rent now than in the pre-recession glory days. During that period, Spokanites paid higher percentages of their income (32 percent) on rent than the national average (24 percent). Now in Spokane, one can expect to pay just under a third of their monthly income or 27 percent while the rest of the nation approaches almost half their income at 48 percent.

The metropolitan areas which are currently more affordable now than during 1985-1999 are:

  • Buffalo, New York
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Worcester, Massachusetts
  • Bakersfield, California
  • Spokane, Washington
  • Fresno, California
  • Albany, New York
  • Syracuse, New York
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Hartford, Connecticut
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • and Youngstown, Ohio

Where does the YARD stack up? Zillow's Rent Index comes up with a monthly median rent for Hillyard at $815. Only three other neighborhoods in Spokane are reported to have median monthly rents slightly lower than Hillyard: Whitman, Bemiss and Chief Gary Park at $796/mo. Claritas 2014 data gathered for the City of Spokane indicates a median household income of $31,824, or 30.7 percent of what's needed for typical housing costs. That's slightly above Spokane's current average (which is to be expected, as Hillyard is lower-income) and in line with the national statistic, yet still below the affordability of housing in Spokane during the housing bubble.

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