Rising home prices are putting pressure on families to move to lower-priced areas, commute more than an hour to work and worry about meeting mortgage costs, according to the results of a national poll released yesterday by the Homeownership Alliance, a Washington-based housing association.
"Families who earn less than $50,000 a year and people who are renting told us in the survey that the high cost of housing in their areas has caused them a great deal of stress," said Rick Davis, president of the Homeownership Alliance.
He added that the poll has implications for governments as well. "It tells local governments that they need to do something about affordable housing," Davis said.
Half of the 2,000 respondents to the telephone poll agreed that high home prices could prevent their families from living in an area with better schools. Also, 46 percent agreed they would consider moving to a different area where they could afford a home that better suits their needs.
Expensive housing in major cities is pushing home buyers farther away from their jobs. The poll shows that 33 percent of homeowners said at least one member of the family has at least an hour-long work commute.
In the Washington area, high prices in the District and nearby suburbs are pushing home buyers farther out. Rising costs are affecting lower- and middle-income families, said Terry Lynch, executive director of Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a D.C. nonprofit group that focuses on community service and housing issues.
For instance, he said, such families used to be able to buy houses in D.C. neighborhoods such as Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, but those places have grown too pricey. "There's a glacial economic shift in the District that is occurring right now," Lynch said.
Of those surveyed with household incomes less than $25,000, a majority said high home prices have forced them to rent rather than buy a house or apartment. Forty-one percent with incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 agreed with that statement.
Rising home costs also tend to hinder prospective minority buyers. Half of the survey's minority respondents said high home prices forced them to rent rather than buy, compared with 28 percent of white respondents.
The poll also shows that 45 percent of respondents are concerned about whether they will be able to meet mortgage or rent payments.
Even if they are worried, low-income home buyers should watch out for enticing payment plans such as interest-only mortgages, which offer low initial payments but can be risky if interest rates go up, said Sheila Crowley, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.