Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Report: Housing price drop didnít help many

Corresponding wage drop leaves many unable to afford housing

Express Staff Writer

This graphic shows the sectors of employment of people who live in subsidized housing the Blaine County Housing Authority.
Courtesy graphic

    Since the recession that caused a drop in local housing prices also brought an average 33 percent drop in wages, demand for subsidized affordable housing is expected to remain high, the Blaine County Housing Authority predicts in its fiscal year 2013 annual report.
    The BCHA administers occupancy of 83 owned units and 12 rental units. Sixty of the owned units and six of the rental units are in Ketchum. The others are distributed through Sun Valley, the mid-Wood River Valley and Hailey, with one rental unit in Bellevue.
    The vast majority of those below-market-price units were developed through density incentives provided to developers by local ordinances. Some were built by ARCH Community Housing Trust.
    The report states that the affordability gap in the Ketchum-Sun Valley market continues to widen, with the median single-family home affordable only to a household earning at least 240 percent of the area median income (or $191,000 per year), and condos and townhouses affordable only to households earning 170 percent of the area median income (or $135,000 per year).
    The gap in the Hailey-Bellevue market is significantly lower, but still leaves home ownership out of reach for half the population.
    “The affordability gap forces workers to other parts of the county, or out of the county altogether,” the report states. “This puts pressure on our other critical resources. Finally, it negatively affects Blaine County businesses, as their workers travel longer distances each day and there are fewer full-time residents to support our local economy.”
    As of Sept. 30, the Housing Authority’s database contained 112 active applications, representing 195 individuals. During fiscal year 2013, the Housing Authority placed 58 applicant households into owned or rental housing, but received new applications from 65 households.
    The report states that 41 percent of its new applicants are low-income (Category 1, out of a scale of 1-6). The percentage of low-income households has been climbing steadily since December 2009, when it was about 25 percent.
    “Considering the slow and fragile recovery, this may be the new normal for the foreseeable future,” the report states.
    Twenty-three percent of the new applicants are considered moderate-income (Category 3). Those households can generally qualify for state or federal housing assistance. However, the report states, there are other barriers to home ownership in their personal profiles. Those include low or no credit scores, short sales or foreclosures, bankruptcies and little or no savings for a down payment. The Housing Authority works with those applicants and with other professionals (including mortgage brokers, banks and credit counselors) to prepare them for home ownership.
    The remaining 15 percent of new applicants have household incomes above 80 percent of area median income (Category 4-6). Since most housing markets in the United States support home ownership for that group, there is no state or federal assistance available.
    “The BCHA home ownership programs developed with the local jurisdictions and the development community are the only source of affordable housing for households in these income categories,” the report states.
    During a meeting Tuesday at which Housing Authority Executive Director David Patrie presented the fiscal 2013 report, County Commissioner Larry Schoen said the commissioners continue to appreciate the need for affordable housing in the county and to support the Housing Authority.
Greg Moore:

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