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WASHINGTON, DC-The freefall in residential home sales and prices should at least have one silver lining: buying a house would become feasible for people with good credit and able to buy using a conventional mortgage. While homeownership has become slightly more likely during this downturn, it still remains out of reach for the majority of people seeking affordable housing. This is the core finding of the Center for Housing Policy’s latest report, “Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America.” The Center for Housing Policy is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference.

The report looked at the five highest-growth occupations–registered nurses, retail salespeople, customer service representatives, food preparation workers and office clerks–and determined that, based on median annual income, workers in these categories still cannot afford to buy a home in most of the top 201 metro areas studied. Registered nurses are unable to purchase a median-priced home in 108 of the markets, compared to 114 metro markets that were unaffordable in 2006. Customer service representatives cannot afford to buy a home in 185 of the markets. Retail salespeople and food preparation workers could not afford a home in any of the metro areas examined. Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center, says the perceived wealth effect from high tech industries masks the difficulties that many workers have in finding housing.

“We hear a lot about the ‘information economy,’ but the fact is most working families are still employed in traditional service occupations,” he says. “In many metro areas, these families continue to face home prices and rents that are beyond their means, and as a result, employers have a difficult time attracting a quality work force.” According to the study, the amount of income needed to purchase the median-priced home did dip in 161 of the 201 markets studied, with some of the biggest drops in such expensive markets as California, Washington, DC, Arizona and Florida.

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