Pole Position For a second consecutive quarter, Indianapolis was the nation's most affordable housing market among major metros with populations over 500,000. According to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index, 88.7 percent of new and existing homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2005 were affordable to households earning the area's median income of $64,000. The median sales price of all Indianapolis homes sold was $120,000.

Also near the top of the list for affordable major metros were Youngstown–Warren, Ohio/Boardman, Pa.; Detroit–Litonia–Dearborn, Mich.; Grand Rapids–Wyoming, Mich.; and Dayton, Ohio, in that order.

Midwestern metros also dominated the list of the most affordable housing markets of under 500,000 people. Davenport, Iowa/Moline–Rock Island, Ill. was tops, followed by Cumberland, Md./W.Va.; Lima, Ohio; Mansfield, Ohio; and Lansing–East Lansing, Mich.

Rate of Attrition Meanwhile, higher interest rates and rising home prices caused nationwide housing affordability to slip for a fourth consecutive quarter to its lowest level on Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) record.

The latest HOI showed that only 41 percent of new and existing homes that were sold during the final quarter of 2005 were affordable to families earning the national median income, down from 43 percent of homes sold in the third quarter of 2005 and 52 percent of homes sold in the final quarter of 2004.

NAHB forecasts predict that the average rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage will inch up gradually to about 6.6 percent late in 2006 and average about 6.5 percent for the year as a whole.

Taking No More In February, Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) introduced H.R. 4772,

Property owners with a takings claim now face a paradox: Under the current system, before a federal court will rule on a Fifth Amendment takings claim, property owners must first litigate their case in state court. However, bringing the case to state court and having a claim heard (even under state law) often precludes the property owner from review by a federal court.

In contrast, all other civil rights cases can be brought directly to federal court. To illustrate the disparity, an adult bookstore owner who challenges a municipal land-use regulation based on the First Amendment's free speech protection has direct access to federal court, whereas a property owner challenging the same regulation but raising a Fifth Amendment takings claim does not.

Beyond Barracks The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity is considering the Build Houses for Our Military's Enlisted Servicemembers Act, which the NAHB supports and testified on in February.

H.R. 3186 would correct a technical anomaly in the method by which income eligibility is calculated for enlisted military personnel who seek to qualify for residency in a low-income housing tax credit home. It achieves this by excluding military members' housing allowance from their annual household income when qualifying them for the tax credit properties.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Indianapolis, IN, Dayton, OH.