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Report: Home Prices Out of Reach for Many Minnesotans

May 8, 2008

St. Paul, MN - Despite falling house prices, home ownership is still out of reach for too many Minnesotans. That's the bottom line of a just-released study by the Minnesota Housing Project.

Executive Director Chip Halbach says while foreclosures and tight credit make headlines, the real story is about the mismatch between costs and earnings.

"We looked at the trend of home prices over this decade and, in most counties, prices have increased much faster than incomes, in spite of the recent declines in prices."

In more than half of Minnesota's counties, home prices increased by 40 percent over the period, while household incomes only went up by 15 percent, and Halbach believes public policies are needed to make home-owning more feasible.

"We want to encourage public agencies to make good loans available, not just loans having interest rates that jump up. And we're encouraging housing authorities to use their local levies to make sure that there is available housing at prices that match the incomes of people in their areas."

Halbach explains the county-by-county study found that earnings in many common occupations, such as police officers earning an average wage, aren’t enough to cover affordable housing. He says the turbulent housing market has its winners and losers.

"The people who have lost out are folks that have just bought their homes, because they're the ones who are really taking a hit from the decline in prices. Additionally, builders have been hard hit, as well as residents of communities where there are concentrations of foreclosures. Those who are now trying to buy their first homes and have good credit ratings, or are trying to renovate houses, are actually a little bit better off."

More details as well as the county numbers can be found in the report, which is available on the Minnesota Housing Project web site at www.mhponline.org.

Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN