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Originally published Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Fewer can afford to buy a house in King County, report says

Buying a home in King County has moved further out of reach for the typical wage earner. A typical household would have had to bring in...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Buying a home in King County has moved further out of reach for the typical wage earner.

A typical household would have had to bring in 46 percent more income in 2005 to afford a median house, a huge leap from 2004, according to an annual report released Wednesday.

A typically priced home cost $332,000 in 2005, meaning wage earners had to make $88,400 to spend 30 percent of household income on housing costs, a percentage considered affordable. The median income that year, however, was $60,700. For that income, a $228,100 home would be considered affordable.

In 2003, when the median home price was $265,000 and the median income was $59,200, the gap between typical income and a 30 percent housing expense was 16 percent. In 2004, the gap was 24 percent when the median home price was $289,950 and the median income was $60,400.

"We attribute that to interest rates going up," said Lisa Voight, the program coordinator who put together the county's affordable-housing report.

Voight said condominiums were the good news in the report; half of all condos in 2005 were considered affordable for the median wage earners.

South King County had the highest percentage of single-family homes, condos and apartments affordable to people who make less than 80 percent of the 2005 median income, or $48,600 for the average household.

Those who want to live near Seattle can find pockets of affordable housing on the south side, analysts said.

There were also enough apartments in the county for renters, although the vacancy rate fell to 6 percent in 2005. They were not, however, affordable for everyone, county analysts said.

The area has a deficit of apartments for people who make less than 40 percent of the median income, such as a family of four in which both parents make minimum wage. County analysts counted 30,730 apartment units considered affordable for 99,500 households at that income level.

"We live in a desirable place with lots of high-wage jobs, but there are lots of people who need to serve those high-wage jobs and those are the people who are struggling," Voight said.

Analysts say many people are spending more than 30 percent on housing costs. About half of all renters spend more than that, with lower-income renters likely to spend more of their income on rent. One-third of all homeowners spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in 2005.

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To view the report, visit http://www.metrokc.gov/budget/benchmrk/

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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