Interesting visualization here from Raul Amoros at HowMuch.net, on affordability. As expressed here in what you've got to earn in 27 cities in order to afford a median-priced for-sale home.
As Amoros says:
The higher the cone rising out of the map, the greater the salary needed to buy a home. Additionally, we have highlighted the metro areas from green to red to represent the median home price. Darker green represents lower median home prices and darker red represents higher median home prices. Of the 27 metro areas we looked at, the range of salaries needed to own a home varies from $31,134 to $147,996, which is a difference of over $100,000!
Also, have a look at Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell's amazing analysis, "The U.S. Housing Affordability Crisis: How a Rent and Low-Income Problem is Becoming Everybody's Problem." For a data-driven dialectic, Gudell's work here is riveting, and the conclusion is outright scary.
Perhaps the most worrisome housing affordability problem we’ve noticed is the fact that the metro areas that have historically offered parents the best opportunities to ensure their children end up higher on the socio-economic ladder are also some of the areas where housing affordability is deteriorating the fastest.
Combining Zillow housing data with social mobility data from Harvard University’s Equality of Opportunity Project, Zillow examined how worsening housing affordability – especially in coastal markets – may be making it harder for people to escape poverty.
Social scientists, academics, and politicians use the term affordability their way, a way that serves the purpose of a narrative they want to spin.
For business people--investors, developers, builders--affordability in its broad social sense is a far less meaningful term than, say, homes sold per community per month.
Yes, it's a context, and read properly, affordability's story in America can filter opportunity from the challenge. For instance, it's interesting, to me, to see the comment below BUILDER editor Jennifer Goodman's Q&A with demographer Joel Kotkin, entitled "Housing Affordability Hits a Crisis Level."
A thoughtful reply to Kotkin's key assertion--that "strong land use regulation, principally urban growth boundaries, .. severely limit or even prohibit building on the urban fringe... drives up prices and has been associated with lost housing affordability"--is, effectively, not so fast. Here's what the comment actually says:
"There is much more going on than just regulations limiting "greenfield" development in the cities Mr. Kotkin cites as having excessively high housing prices. One could just as easily argue that those cities are more desirable places to live, and are therefore attracting more people because they have restricted excessive development and urban sprawl."
Who'd disagree with that? It's perfectly reasonable. Only thing is, if you follow that thinking to its logical conclusion, such cities would only have wealthy people living in them who can afford that desirable, exclusive location. Who, then does the dirty work, the school teaching, the infrastructure stuff to make the place function, ... all those middle-classy kinds of things?
This is not to take this into ideology.
That's for the social scientists, academics, politicians to work out. A city or a wider metro area, or a county, or any geographical region that doesn't have a mix, balance, self-selecting diverse base of people with a lot of different household characteristics to make an economic whole may be imaginable, but it's not what one would intuitively think of as a starting place.
But if you stay tuned, and you keep focusing on the pace per month per community over the next six to 18 months, you'll likely see a shift in all of this. That's because home builders like you know how to adapt and deal with both the local regulatory constraints and the lender constraints, and the labor capacity constraints.
Collectively, new home construction will be part of the solution to the nation's housing affordability crisis, because that's the way business innovation, competition, and opportunity work. Housing affordability is an issue. It's home builders' jobs, as is their custom, to do something about that by making a home attainable one at a time for a customer, who's also doing his or her part in defying local regulators and board officials who'd prefer that they take their community-making business somewhere else.