WASHINGTON - Nationwide housing affordability during the fourth quarter of 2010 rose to its highest level in the 20 years since it has been measured, according to National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) data released today.

The HOI indicated that 73.9 percent 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 percent set during the first quarter of 2009 and marked the eighth consecutive quarter that the index has been above 70 percent. Until 2009, the HOI rarely topped 65 percent and never reached 70 percent.

"Today's report shows that housing affordability at the end of 2010 was at its highest level since we started computing the HOI," said Bob Nielsen, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Reno, Nev. "However, while 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, Ind., was 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, Ohio-Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y; Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, Mich.; and Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.

Among smaller housing markets, the most affordable was Elkhart-Goshen, Ind., where 97.0 percent of homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2010 were affordable to families earning a median income of $58,600. Other smaller housing markets near the top of the index included Lansing-East Lansing, Mich.; Kokomo, Ind.; Mansfield, Ohio; and Bay City, Mich.,.

New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., 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, Calif.; Honolulu; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.; and Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif., respectively.

Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif. was the least affordable of the smaller metro housing markets in the country during the fourth quarter. In Santa Cruz, 45.0 percent of the homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $84,200. Other small metro areas ranking near the bottom included Ocean City, N.J; San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.; Laredo, Texas; and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The NAHB/Wells Fargo HOI is a measure of the percentage of homes sold in a given area that are affordable to families earning that area's median income during a specific quarter. Prices of new and existing homes sold are collected from actual court records by First American Real Estate Solutions, a marketing company. Mortgage financing conditions incorporate interest rates on fixed- and adjustable-rate loans reported by the Federal Housing Finance Board.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index is strictly the product of NAHB Economics, and is not seen or influenced by any outside party prior to being released to the public.

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ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 160,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units this year.

SOURCE: National Assn. of Home Builders

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