Monday, September 04, 2006

Average families losing housing race in DuPage

Average families losing housing race in DuPage
By Joseph Sjostrom
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published September 4, 2006

It has just become even tougher for "average" folks to live in DuPage County.

The cost of housing in one of the nation's wealthiest counties continues to climb beyond the reach of middle-income wage-earners, according to a recently released housing organization's report.

The DuPage Homeownership Center report says that a family earning the county's median income of $72,400 can't afford a single-family home at the county's prevailing median price, which, during the second quarter of 2006, was $343,500.

The report was released just before the Labor Day weekend to highlight the year-by-year decline in housing available to families with midrange incomes, said Dru Bergman, executive director of the center, which helps low- and moderate-income families find subsidized mortgages to buy homes in the county.

"It is disheartening to see that health-care workers, police officers and other people essential to our economy cannot afford to live in the county where they work," she said.

The report says a standard rule of thumb is that a family should spend no more than 30 percent of its income on housing. And it estimates the monthly cost of buying a median-priced $343,500 home, including mortgage payments, taxes and insurance, is about $3,073.

The median-income family in DuPage County has 59 percent of the income necessary to buy a median-priced home in the county, according to the report. Last year's report said it was 63 percent.

A family earning $72,400 should be able to afford a home priced at about $202,000, Bergman said, based on the 30 percent of income rule.

Also according to the center, only about 1 1/2 percent of single-family detached homes for sale in DuPage County are affordable to a family earning the county's median income.

As of last week, there were 6,267 single-family homes in DuPage County on the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois, and just 94 of them were listed at $210,000 or less, according to Fred Hoebel of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Lombard.

Hoebel, who is part of the Homeownership Center's housing affordability task force, said 45 percent of the attached housing--condominiums and townhouses--listed for sale in DuPage County were priced at $210,000 or less. But he said that 322 of them are one-bedroom units that wouldn't be suitable for a family with children.

Size isn't the only problem with condos and townhouses, Bergman said.

"Although the sales price might be lower than a house, condos have monthly dues that bump up the actual cost of homeowners above the mortgage, taxes and insurance," Bergman said.

The center's findings indicate that high-priced housing has a negative impact on the county's economy, said Debra Olson, a DuPage County Board member from Wheaton and board president of the Homeownership Center.



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