With both existing and new home sales booming and Tuesday's S&P/Case-Shiller index showing that home prices climbed 4.9 percent in the 12 months through April, the housing market is sitting pretty, right?
Not if you're poor, says David Dayen of the New Republic
. "The housing recovery has skipped low-income neighborhoods: 15 percent of homes worth less than $200,000 are still underwater," he writes. The figure is just 6 percent for homes over $200,000. Underwater means a homeowner owes more for his/her mortgage than the value of the home.
African-Americans suffer the worst, Dayen says. "Middle-class black households are more likely to live in neighborhoods with lower incomes than the average low-income white household."
Blacks are hit with heavy foreclosures, because "predatory lending was directed at minority homeowners," Dayen states. Minority borrowers account for a disproportionate amount of subprime mortgage loans.
"Until we figure out another way for the middle class to build wealth other than purchasing a mortgage, the discriminatory effects of our housing system will further a permanent underclass among people of color," Dayen says.
of The Wall Street Journal identifies a different problem: the low wage increases that have prevailed since the Great Recession ended in June 2009 — 2.2 percent a year on average — have made it difficult for non-wealthy buyers to qualify for a mortgage.
"Without [government] help, these neighborhoods might take years and years to come back," Julia Gordon, a senior director at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, told Light.
Many aspiring homeowners among the working class have to content themselves with renting. The U.S. homeownership rate
has dropped to 63.7 percent from a peak of 69 percent in 2004.
"It’s more of a new normal," Nobel laureate economist Robert Shiller of Yale University told The New York Times
. "We went through a wrenching experience with the biggest housing bubble and the biggest collapse since 1890. This is an anxious time." The bubble inflated from 2001 to 2006.
Another concern, writes
The Journal's Wright: "many low-down-payment borrowers — including first-time home buyers — are returning to the market, boosting housing but raising concern among skeptics who worry about the risk of such mortgages."
In the first quarter, 51 percent of home buyers with a non-jumbo mortgage forked over a down payment of 10 percent or less on a home, compared with 48 percent a year earlier, according to RealtyTrac.
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