A story on National housing costs in yesterday's Business and Finance section should have identified Joseph T. Benedict as vice president of the U.S. League of Savings Associations.
Metropolitan Washington housing costs are higher than those of any city in the country except San Francisco, according to a new study released yesterday by the U.S. League of Savings Associations.
House prices in the metropolitan area were 55 percent above the national median last year, and just 6 percent below San Francisco's according to the study.
The study explains how, despite rapidly rising costs, Americans continue to buy homes in near record numbers by economizing on other things and depending increasingly on a second family income.
More than a third of U.S. home buyers last year spent in excess of 25 percent of their household income on housing, while 14 percent spent more than 30 percent.
dict warned yesterday, the current spiral is "troublesome" and will become "intolerable" in the long run. He predicted continued high inflation will cause households to stretch their budgets even further so long as they look at a house as an investment or hedge against inflation as well as shelter.
Last year, the league estimated the median price of a house in the D.C. Metropolitan area to be $68,000, compared with $44,000 for the country as a whole. The median downpayment was $17,500 here, or 94 percent above the median downpayment nationwide.
Yet this relatively high downpayment of 20 percent or more enabled Washingtonians to keep monthly expenses for mortgage, taxes, utilities and insurance to just 44 percent higher than the national average. The study also found the median income in Washington is also 44 percent higher than nationwide.
Consequently, once the downpayment is made, the monthly carrying charges on a Washington home consume the same share of income as they do nationally, 21 percent.
The study was conducted in 28 U.S. cities between April and June 1977. At today's prices, the median cost of a Washington home has since risen to about $80,000. Monthly carrying charges are about $680.
Earlier this year the league published a study showing that 45 percent of all home buyers were two-income families. It has now found that 18 percent of first-time home buyers would have had to buy a less expensive house in 1977 had it not been for the second income, even when that combined income was as much as $45,000.
First-time buyers, who are particularly hard hit by the housing inflation spiral, are able to get into the market by buying less expensive houses, making smaller downpayments and allocating more of the household income for shelter. The report notes that whereas first-time buyers in the cities tend to have higher incomes than first-time buyers elsewhere, the city dwellers must still sacrifice other consumer expenditures to afford today's high priced housing without government assistance.
This is particularly tough in the Washington area where older houses sell for more than new, the reverse of the national pattern. The report noted that the Washingtonian buying a first home last year made a downpayment of $13,000, twice as large as the median for first time buyers in all large cities and three times greater than in small metropolitan areas.
In other cities first-time buyers paid about 25 percent less for a house than did repeat buyers as a whole. But in the Nation's Capital the housing shortage and high prices forced the first-time buyer to pay within 17 percent of what the person who had equity in another home wound up paying. And monthly carrying charges for first-time Washington buyers came out to 24 percent of income, 2 percent above the national median for first-time buyers.
As a result of its findings, the league has recommended that national housing policy focus on housing affordability and that the nation's high-cost cities be clearly targeted. It has also recommended a tax credit bonus for savings for first time time buyers, the use of graduated payment mortgages in conventional lending and a shared risk program to encourage private mortgage lending in urban areas.
Bills to implement these recommendations were introduced in the last Congress but did not pass.