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articles about “Homeownership

Blue Markets Face Bigger Housing Challenges Than Red Markets

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
October 27, 2014

The housing crisis hurt Democratic- and Republican-leaning markets similarly, but today blue markets have lower affordability, lower homeownership, and greater income inequality.

As Election Day 2014 approaches, we see sharp differences in local housing markets depending on whether they are blue or red. As the political urgency of the housing crisis fades, longer-term issues like declining affordability, low homeownership, and rising inequality are taking center stage. And these issues play out differently in Democratic- and Republican-leaning metros.

To show this, Trulia categorized the 100 largest metros as red or blue depending on their 2012 presidential vote. In 32 metros—the red markets—the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, got more votes than the Democrat, President Obama. These include places like HoustonCincinnati, and Salt Lake City. In 40 light-blue markets, including St. LouisAustin, and Buffalo, Obama beat Romney by less than 20 percentage points. And in 28 dark-blue markets, including Los AngelesNew York, and San Francisco, Obama’s margin exceeded 20 points.

When we looked at housing trends in these metros, we found that the housing crisis and recovery affected red and blue markets similarly. But today’s pressing housing issues are more severe in blue markets.

The Housing Crisis Hit Both Red and Blue America

When the housing bubble of the mid-2000s burst, both red and blue markets felt the pain. The markets with the most severe housing busts included dark-blue metros like Detroit and Oakland as well as red markets like Bakersfield and Cape Coral – Fort Myers, FL. The peak-to-trough price decline averaged 16% in red markets, 26% in light-blue markets, and 25% in dark-blue markets. But the relationship between price declines and redness or blueness was not statistically significant. (See note.)

Nor does the recent recovery show any clear bias toward red or blue markets. In September 2014, home prices were up 7.0% year-over-year in red markets, 6.2% in light-blue markets, and 6.3% in dark-blue markets. The markets with the largest price increases included red metros like Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL, and Birmingham, AL, and dark-blue metros like Miami and Toledo, OH. The relationship between year-over-year price increases and 2012 voting patterns is not statistically significant. Another recovery measure, the share of homes in foreclosure, also doesn’t show a statistically significant correlation with 2012 voting patterns.

Key Housing Data in the Reddest Metros
U.S. Metro 2012 Vote Margin: Obama vs. Romney Price Decline in Housing Bust, Peak-to-Trough Year-Over-Year Price Change, Sept. 2014 Median Asking Price Per Square Foot, $
1 Knoxville, TN -34% -8% 2.1% $98
2 Tulsa, OK -32% -4% 7.3% $90
3 Greenville, SC -30% -8% 5.9% $92
4 Oklahoma City, OK -27% -3% 4.0% $98
5 Fort Worth, TX -23% -6% 6.4% $94
6 Salt Lake City, UT -21% -22% 4.7% $129
7 Colorado Springs, CO -21% -12% 4.0% $107
8 Birmingham, AL -20% -13% 11.5% $96
9 Jacksonville, FL -19% -38% 7.0% $109
10 Bakersfield, CA -17% -52% 8.2% $126

Note: among 100 largest U.S. metros. Reddest metros are those with highest negative margin for Obama vs. Romney in 2012. See blogpost note for data sources. Data for all 100 metros available here.

Key Housing Data in the Bluest Metros
U.S. Metro 2012 Vote Margin: Obama vs. Romney Price Decline in Housing Bust, Peak-to-Trough Year-Over-Year Price Change, Sept. 2014 Median Asking Price Per Square Foot, $
1 San Francisco, CA 58% -23% 9.9% $613
2 Oakland, CA 50% -39% 11.9% $342
3 New York, NY-NJ 49% -18% 4.3% $320
4 Detroit, MI 47% -40% 11.4% $75
5 San Jose, CA 42% -26% 8.6% $430
6 Los Angeles, CA 42% -35% 6.9% $334
7 Honolulu, HI 39% -11% 4.1% $439
8 Washington, DC-VA-MD-WV 37% -25% 3.2% $177
9 Fort Lauderdale, FL 35% -48% 6.9% $143
10 Seattle, WA 35% -26% 8.9% $197
Note: among 100 largest U.S. metros. Bluest metros are those with highest positive margin for Obama vs. Romney in 2012. See blogpost note for data sources. Data for all 100 metros available here.

 

 

Affordability Is a Bigger Problem for Blue Markets

Things look fundamentally different when we compare red and blue markets in terms of affordability and related measures. The tables above show that none of the 10 reddest markets had a median asking price per square foot above $130 in Sept. 2014. But nine of the 10 bluest markets did. Looking across all 100 largest metros, the correlation between price-per-square-foot and 2012 vote margin was positive, high (0.63), and statistically significant. In fact, the only expensive red market was Orange County, CA, at $363 per square foot. There was a huge drop-off to the next-most-expensive red market—North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, FL, at $150 per square foot.

When we plot local market home price per-square-foot and the 2012 presidential vote, we see that most of the red metros are clustered in the lower left-hand corner of the figure, where prices were lowest.

margin-vs-ppf

Strikingly, housing costs nearly twice as much in dark-blue markets ($227 per square foot) than in red markets ($119).

MedianAskingPrice

Sure, households in blue markets tend to have higher incomes. But those higher incomes are not enough to offset higher home prices. Our middle-class affordability measure, which reflects the share of homes for sale within reach of a median-income household, is significantly lower in bluer markets. Furthermore, blue markets have lower homeownership and greater income inequality than red markets. As with affordability, the relationships between homeownership and inequality on one hand and 2012 voting patterns on the other hand are statistically significant.

What does all this mean? The point is not that Democrats cause expensive housing, lower homeownership, or greater inequality. Determining whether and how the political views of voters or their elected officials affect local housing markets is the stuff of scholarly research, not short blogposts. But because blue markets are less affordable, have lower homeownership, and have greater income inequality, political leaders in Democratic-leaning and Republican-leaning metros may push for different policies.

Furthermore, these local differences in home prices mean that some national housing policies favor red markets and others blue markets. For instance, the current system of conforming loan limits benefits red markets more because homes in those markets are likelier to fall within local loan limits. But the mortgage interest deduction benefits blue markets more, thanks to higher home prices and more residents in higher tax brackets. Such differences could make it harder to reform these long-standing policies. In short, the differences between blue and red local housing markets may add to the challenge of reaching agreement on national housing policies.

Note: Metro-level 2012 Presidential election data are aggregated from county-level data in the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Peak-to-trough price declines are calculated from the Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index. Year-over-year price changes and median asking prices per square foot are from the Trulia Price Monitor. Correlations mentioned in this post are metro-level, weighted by number of households in the metro, and statistically significant if p<.05. The correlation of price per square foot and vote margin is calculated using the natural log of price per square foot.

 

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Are We Building Too Many Single-Family Homes?

The vacancy rate for single-family homes increased in 2013 and remains well above bubble and pre-bubble levels.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 17, 2014

What? Too much new single-family construction? It sounds hard to believe, with only 618,000 single-family housing starts in 2013, heading toward 622,000 in 2014 – far below the pre-bubble average of 1.1 million per year in the 1990s. Even when adding in multi-unit building, which is booming, construction remains a laggard in the housing recovery and is contributing less than it should to employment and economic growth.

Of course, the historical norm doesn’t tell us what the just-right level of construction is now. That depends on the rate at which new households are formed. If new construction runs ahead of household formation, more homes sit empty and the vacancy rate rises. In 2004 and 2005, during the bubble, construction of single-family homes soared to over 1.5 million units. Then, during the bust, household formation slowed, in part because more young people lived with parents. Too much housing and too few households were a dangerous cocktail during the housing bust and recession, causing the vacancy rate to climb until 2010. Since then, the vacancy rate has fallen, but single-family construction has continued to wallow near all-time lows.

Newly released data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) show that the vacancy rate for single-family homes actually ticked up a bit in 2013. That’s a big surprise. It suggests even today’s low level of single-family construction might still be too much, too soon. To determine whether we’re building too many homes, we need first to understand household formation, and then the vacancy rate.

Single-Family Rentals Increased Despite Low Household Formation Rate
To understand what’s happening with vacancy rates, let’s start by looking at changes in households and housing units in the past year broken down by owner-occupied and rented, and single-family and multi-unit:

Type of unit Change, 2012 to 2013, ‘000s Change, 2012 to 2013, % Change, 2006 to 2013, ‘000s Change, 2006 to 2013, %
Owner-occupied single-family -184 -0.3% -428 -0.7%
Renter-occupied single-family 331 2.3% 3540 31.2%
Owner-occupied multi-unit (i.e. condos) 18 0.5% -269 -6.4%
Renter-occupied multi-unit (i.e. apartments) 263 1.0% 2259 9.7%
Total single-family units, incl. vacant 226 0.3% 4701 5.5%
Total multi-family units, incl. vacant 199 0.6% 2131 6.5%
Total housing units, incl. vacant 356 0.3% 6496 5.1%
Total households 321 0.3% 4674 4.2%
Note: total housing units and total households include mobile homes, boats, RV’s, vans, etc. and their occupants.

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More Millennials Leave Parental Nest, Without Lifting Housing Market

Although slightly fewer young adults are living in their parents’ homes, don’t get too excited. Fewer are heading their own households, and the true young adult homeownership rate slipped in 2014.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
September 16, 2014

This morning, the Census Bureau released 2014 data that show whether Americans own, rent, or live under someone else’s roof. (See note.) As we’ve pointed out before, the published homeownership rate is often a misleading guide to what’s really happening in the housing market. For instance, suppose young people move out of their parents’ homes into rental apartments. That would lower the published homeownership rate because the number of renters has increased – even though the number of young homeowners is unchanged.

Using these fresh 2014 data, we update several key measures of housing and living arrangements, including:

  1. the percentage of young people living with their parents;
  2. the headship rate, which is the percentage of adults who head a household, either as an owner or a renter;
  3. our “true” homeownership rate, which equals the percentage of adults who are homeowners.

These three measures are closely related. If young people move out of their parents’ homes and become either renters or homeowners, the share of young adults living with parents goes down, while the headship rate for young adults goes up. Furthermore, the true homeownership rate equals the published homeownership rate times the headship rate – and therefore takes into account whether people are dropping out of or entering the housing market. Thus, it gives a clearer picture of whether the housing market is recovering. With that overview, here’s what the new 2014 data show.

True Young-Adult Homeownership Rate Falls in 2014, Reversing 2013 Increase
Let’s start with those millennials in the basement. They’re still there, but, ever so slowly, more are moving out. In 2014, 31.1% of 18-34 year-olds lived with their parents, down slightly from 31.2% in 2013 and from the peak of 31.6% in 2012.

1834LivingWithParents … continue reading

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Homeowners and Renters … Together?

Homeowners and renters are much more likely to be neighbors in Florida than in the New York City area. The housing bust brought owners and renters closer together in most markets as many single‐family homes became rentals.

Jed Kolko, Chief Economist
August 27, 2014

Most neighborhoods have both renters and homeowners, and that mix depends on the housing stock. Most single‐family homes are owner‐occupied and most multi‐unit buildings are rentals. But there are plenty of exceptions. High‐rise neighborhoods often have both condo owners and apartment renters. And suburban areas with mostly owner‐occupied single‐family homes often have at least a few renters sprinkled in.

Whether renters and owners live together or apart matters for two reasons. First, when every neighborhood has both renters and owners, the choice of which neighborhood to live in isn’t limited by whether you rent or buy. But in a city where neighborhoods tend to be renter‐only or owner‐only, your choices are limited. In particular, people who can’t afford to buy a home have fewer neighborhoods to choose from when looking for a rental. Second, people care who their neighbors are. That’s especially true for homeowners. When they’re asked what’s important to them about their neighbors, they say they care most about whether the people who live near them are also homeowners, according to a September 2013 Trulia survey.

Renters and homeowners are more integrated—which is to say less segregated—in some metros than in others. But overall segregation dropped between 2000 and 2010, mostly because the housing bust turned some single‐family homes in predominately owner‐occupied neighborhoods into rentals.

Where Renters and Owners Mix – And Where They Don’t
To analyze how integrated or segregated renters and owners are in different metros, we used what’s called a dissimilarity index, which is a measure of how evenly two distinct groups are distributed across a geographic area. For each metro area, this index ranges from 0 to 1:

  • 0 indicates a completely integrated metro that has the same mix of renters and owners in every neighborhood.
  • 1 indicates a completely segregated metro where every neighborhood is either all owners or all renters.

The index equals the percentage of owners or renters in a metro that would have to move to a different neighborhood for all neighborhoods to have the same mix of owners and renters. (Throughout this post, “neighborhood” means Census tract. See note below.)

Among the 100 largest U.S. metros, the top four where renters and owners are most integrated are in

Florida. In the top three—Lakeland‐Winter Haven; North Port‐Bradenton‐Sarasota; and Palm Bay-Melbourne‐Titusville—fewer than 30% of households would have to move to equalize the mix of owners and renters across all neighborhoods. Overall, the 10 metros where renters and owners are most integrated tend to be in the Sunbelt.

Top 10 Metros Where Owners and Renters are Most Integrated
# U.S. Metro Dissimilarity index of owners vs. renters
1 LakelandWinter Haven, FL 0.28
2 North PortBradentonSarasota, FL 0.29
3 Palm BayMelbourneTitusville, FL 0.29
4 Cape CoralFort Myers, FL 0.31
5 Bakersfield, CA 0.32
6 Dayton, OH 0.32
7 Jacksonville, FL 0.32
8 Little Rock, AR 0.32
9 Charleston, SC 0.33
10 Greenville, SC 0.33
Note: among 100 largest metros. The dissimilarity index ranges from 0 to 1. A lower dissimilarity index means owners and renters are more integrated (i.e. less segregated). 

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Cutting Housing Costs When Financial Hardship Strikes

If forced to spend less on housing, people would rather change where they live than whom they live with. Downsizing is the #1 way people would reduce their housing costs. Furthermore, renters are significantly more willing to move or get a roommate than homeowners are.

In good economic times as well as in bad, financial hardship can always strike. And when it does, people might have to cut back on housing, which is typically the largest household expense. However, cutting housing costs involves hard tradeoffs: moving can be expensive and a hassle, and living with family, friends, or strangers can be a challenge. To understand how people might make these tradeoffs, we asked 2,048 Americans in late March and early April 2014 the following question:

“If you experienced a major financial hardship (e.g., lost your job, unexpected medical bills), and you needed to cut back significantly on your housing costs, which of the following would you most likely do? Please select all that apply.”

Here’s what they told us.

Everyone’s Top Cost-Cutting Strategy: Downsizing
Facing financial hardship that required cutting back on housing, nearly 2 in 5 people (38%) would move to a smaller home — more than any other option by a wide margin. In fact, twice as many people would prefer downsizing than the next most popular actions of (1) renting out part of their home to a roommate or housemate or (2) moving to a more affordable neighborhood. Far fewer people would take the more radical actions of living in their car or not paying the rent or mortgage.

How Would You Cut Your Housing Costs If Hit With A Major Financial Hardship? Share
Move to a smaller home/apartment 38%
Rent out part of my home to a roommate/housemate 19%
Move to a more affordable neighborhood in the same city, metro area, or region 19%
Move to a more affordable city, metro area, or region 16%
Move into my parents’ home 14%
Move into my children’s (or other relative’s) home 8%
Rent out part of my home to vacationers/visitors 6%
Live in my car, office, or another place that’s not intended as housing 5%
Move into a non-relative’s home 4%
I would stay in my current home but stop paying the rent or mortgage 4%

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