Housing Prices Down, But Getting A Home Still Tough

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Oct. 23, 2008)—The latest report from an independent task force trying to find options for more affordable, workforce housing in St. Mary’s shows that housing prices have dropped somewhat given the recent economic downturn, but it still doesn’t help many home seekers.

The initial report from the Community Workforce Housing Taskforce report from the spring of 2007 showed that the median price of a house was about $330,000, which was well beyond the range of 60 percent of county families.

The median housing price has dropped to about $300,000 but the updated report shows that credit has tightened up so much that prospective homebuyers can’t get a loan.

“Don’t let that be a safety net,” said Robert Schaller, director of the county Department of Economic and Community Development. “Because that’ll turn around as soon as the market picks back up.”

Schaller and other members of the task force presented their update to the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.

For the past seven years the gap between family income here and housing prices has continued to widen, the report showed.

In 2000 the median price for a house was about $150,000, while the average family income was about $60,000. By 2007 housing prices had increased by 125 percent while family income increased by only about 18.4 percent, the report claimed.

According to the report a full 62 percent of county homes are now at or below the median price level, but it’s still not helping much.

Task force member and realtor Jan Barnes said that some renters are paying as much as $2,000 to $2,500 a month, comparable to a house payment but simply didn’t have the cash for a down payment.

“They could be homeowners, they’re making the payments,” she said.

The report stated that a family must now make $97,951 in income just to buy a median priced house here.

The taskforce recommended county government dedicate staff to helping revitalize neighborhood organizations in older communities as well as slashing developer impact fees and adequate public facility requirements to preserve and build new affordable homes.

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