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Houses Are Cheaper, But You Still Can't Afford One

Home prices keep falling in San Diego County. Does that mean more people can afford to buy a house? A new report says no. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps explains.

Houses Are Cheaper, But You Still Can't Afford One

Home prices keep falling in San Diego County. Does that mean more people can afford to buy a house? A new report says no. KPBS reporter Andrew Phelps explains.

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So you want to buy a house. Here's how much you need to make: $143,738.

Jeffrey Lubell: That is more than twice the income of registered nurses and many times the incomes of retails sales persons or customer service representatives.

That's Jeffrey Lubell of the nonprofit Center for Housing Policy in Washington.

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Lubell: And what we did is we looked at some of the nation's fastest-growing professions, and basically they're all priced out of the market quite significantly in San Diego.

The median price here has fallen to $440,000. Maybe you still dream of your own home, so you shop around in Riverside. But there's another problem:

Lubell: Homes are, indeed, less expensive there. But now they have to buy a second car. They may have to commute long distances. And they may end up spending as much on their transportation costs as they save on housing. And this of course contributes to sprawl to and environmental challenges.

Besides, a home in Riverside isn't all that cheap. You still have to make more than $115,000 a year to afford one.

Now that you can't afford to buy a house, you look at a rental. Lubell says not a lot of good news there, either.

Lubell: And this is significant, we found that rents have actually increased rather dramatically in the San Diego region by 13 percent from 2006 to 2007, so actually, your rental market has become substantially less affordable.

Lubell says demand for apartments goes up, and so does rent. People spend more of their paycheck on housing, and less going out to eat or buying clothes. And that does not help a struggling economy.

Andrew Phelps, KPBS News.

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