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Report: Portland wages not keeping up with home prices

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PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Home prices are rising faster than wages in Portland and a growing number of other parrts of the county.Portland area homebuyers are being priced out of the real estate market because home prices are increasing fasting than wages — a growing problem in other parts of the country, too, according to a new report.

The report by RealtyTrac found that in median priced home in the Portland area was $260,000 and the average wage earning would have to spend 42 percent of their monthly earnings to buy it.

That's a higher percent than in the first quarter of 2015 because home prices have increased 8 percent since then, while wages have only grown 3 percent, says the report released on March 22. It is only the most recent one to document the trend that is pushing middle class families out of the city.

Local, state and federal policies say housing is not considered affordable if it costs more than 30 percent of earnings.

Portland's 42 percent affordability index is almost exactly the same as the 42.2 percent in Seattle. Although the median priced home there is more expensive at $417,000, wages are also higher.

Both Portland and Seattle are significantly more affordable than San Franciso, however, where the average wage earner would have to spend 75 percent of their monthly earnings to a buy a median priced home at $960,000.

The Q1 2016 Home Affordability Index also found that 9 percent of U.S. county housing markets were less affordable than their historically normal levels, up from 2 percent a year ago. Home prices have been increasing in recent years following steep declines during the Great Recession.

“While the vast majority of housing markets are still affordable by their own historic standards, home prices are floating out of reach for average wage earners in a growing number of U.S. housing markets,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “The recent drop in interest rates has helped to soften the blow of high-flying price appreciation in some markets, but the affordability equation could change quickly if interest rates trend higher and home prices continue to rise faster than wages.”

The online report includes an interactive map of US metropolitan areas. You can find it at tinyurl.com/jbf28e8.

According to the report, nationwide in the first quarter of 2016, the median priced home was $199,000 and the average wage earner would have to spend 26.4 percent of their monthly earnings to buy it. When home prices were most affordable in the first quarter of 2012, families would have to spend 22.2 percent of the monthly earnings to buy a median priced home. When home prices were least affordable in the second quarter of 2006, the average wage earner would have to spend 53.2 percent of their monthly earnings to buy a median priced home.

RealtyTrac is a leading source for housing data. Its report analyzed median home prices obtained from publicly recorded sales deed data collected by RealtyTrac and average wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 456 U.S. counties with a combined population of 221 million. The affordability index was based on the percentage of average wages needed to make monthly house payments on a median-priced home with a 30-year fixed rate and a 3 percent down payment, including property taxes and insurance.