Rising costs of owning a home prices many out of the market

KINGMAN ­ The Western Arizona Council of Governments (WACOG) announced last week the completion of the "Region IV Housing Needs Assessment and Strategy."

According to the study, "The ability of consumers to purchase affordably-priced dwellings is becoming quite strained in the region, as home pricing is rising up to three times that of income in some markets. First-time homebuyers are being stretched to the limit or priced out of some markets. This may have an adverse affect upon business retention and recruitment in the region."

Data shows that median home prices have risen approximately 23.8 percent just in the last year and 36.2 percent since the 2000 census. The median home price in Kingman is about $115,500, according to the study, up from $84,800 in 2000.

Median incomes, however, have not grown at the same rapid rate. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, median income is estimated at $56,550 for Mohave County so far this year, however estimates also suggest that about 68 percent of the population makes 80 percent or lower of the median income.

The study indicates a 25 percent rise in Mohave County wages from 2000 to 2005, less than the increase in home costs.

In this region (La Paz, Mohave and Yuma counties), the study said in regards to renting, "In 2000, 34 percent of all households were paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, while 15 percent were severely cost burdened or paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing."

Similarly, in regards to homeowner cost burden, "about 14 percent of all households in the region were paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing in 2000, while 5 percent were severely cost burdened and paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing."

Information obtained from a the Arizona Department of Housing indicates that an hourly wage of $17.68 is needed in Kingman in order to afford a house. However, the average wage for all occupations in Kingman is only 11.15. Given the average wages of a police officer, teacher, retail worker, nurse, fire fighter and waitperson, few make enough money to afford a median priced home in Kingman.

Crystal and Company, the firm commissioned to complete the study, concluded, "Rapidly escalating housing costs coupled with a relatively slow growth in household income is severely inhibiting the ability of low- and moderate-residents in District IV to find and afford decent, safe and sanitary dwellings.

"If left unchecked, this growing imbalance will continue to erode the ability of communities in region to attract and retain businesses, and adversely affect the local tax base. More aggressive actions are needed at the local and regional levels to address this growing concern."