Home costs outpace wages, study says


Homeownership has become increasingly elusive for Anne Arundel County residents over the past decade because household incomes have failed to keep pace with housing costs, a new study has found.

Since 1985, the median purchase price has risen 75 percent, from $82,932 to $145,241, while median household income has increased 50 percent, from $34,912 to $52,438.

Those figures come from a report that Arundel Community Development Services Inc., a private, nonprofit organization, prepared for Anne Arundel.

It outlines how the government should spend $4.2 million in federal housing aid during the fiscal year that begins July 1. The County Council unanimously approved the report Monday.

The purchase of a median-priced home would require an annual income of about $58,000 at today's interest rates, according to the study.

Renters also face difficult times, the study found. Since 1980, median rents have more than doubled, from $237 a month to $588 a month.

"In a county which generally appears wealthy, it is easy to forget the number of families and individuals for whom access to a decent home in a safe and stable community is little more than a dream," the study concludes.

Other findings include:

* A family earning $36,000 a year can afford a mortgage of $90,000 at 9 percent interest. In 1993, 815 homes -- 11 percent of all sales -- were for $90,000 or less.

* Single-parent families make up 10 percent of all county households. Most of those 14,817 households are are headed by women.

* About 20 percent of homeowners pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, leaving little for housing maintenance.

* As of Jan. 1, more than 3,500 county families were on waiting lists for federally subsidized housing.

* Fifteen percent of the county's 456,171 residents are disabled. By 2000, that proportion is expected to rise to 22 percent, or 73,000 residents.

That forecast is largely attributed to the rapid rise that is expected in the number of elderly residents. Overall, the median age in the county increased from 29.3 in 1980 to 32.7 in 1990. During the same period, the number of residents over 65 grew from 23,327 to 34,726.

* Homelessness is most prevalent among blacks, who make up 12 percent of the population but account for 50 percent of those served by homeless shelters.

* In 1980, 40 percent of jobs were government related. By 2000, that will fall to 26 percent.

The study recommends that over the next five years the county help landlords fix up low-rent housing that has begun to deteriorate, work with developers to build less costly housing for the elderly and teach potential first-time homebuyers how to budget for a home purchase and maintain a new home.

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