WASHINGTON -- U.S. housing affordability in the final quarter of 2010 was the best it has been in the 20 years since the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) was started.

The HOI indicated that 73.9% of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $64,400. The record-setting index for the fourth quarter surpassed the previous high of 72.5% set during the first quarter of 2009 and marked the eighth consecutive quarter that the index has been above 70%.

Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, NV, said, "(W)hile this is good news for consumers, both home buyers and builders continue to confront extremely tight credit conditions, and this remains a significant obstacle to many potential home sales."

Indianapolis-Carmel, IN, ranked as the most affordable major housing market in the country for the second consecutive quarter, after relinquishing for a quarter the top spot it has held for five years. In Indianapolis, 93.5 percent of all homes sold were affordable to households earning the area's median family income of $68,700.

Also ranking near the top of the most affordable major metro housing markets were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA.; Syracuse, NY; Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI; and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI.

New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ, again led the nation as the least affordable major housing market during the fourth quarter of 2010. In New York, more than a fourth -- 25.5 percent -- of all homes sold during the quarter were affordable to those earning the area's median income of $65,600. This was the 11th consecutive quarter that the New York metropolitan division has held this position.

The other major metro areas near the bottom of the affordability index included San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA; Honolulu, HI; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA; and Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA; respectively.

Read more about the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

Posted by Rich Christianson

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