SF and Daly City: Home Ownership for the Middle Class: More Pipe Dream than American Dream?

misery2.jpgMisery loves company, so when I saw this article and became thoroughly maudlin, I decided to share it with you all. Later if people want to get together to drink heavily and shout resentful obscenities at luxury cars, let me know when and where.

Today’s Money Central asks a very unpleasant question: Will the middle class ever be able own a home? The article details the lives of people a lot like me, who, together with another person, make a combined income of about 100K. It’s not poverty, but for buying a home in a place like SF, poverty might actually work out better, since the city offers myriad programs for low income housing, but fewer for the middle. And this is not just a problem in popular urban locations like SF and NY:

Across the country, housing prices have risen on average about 45% over the past six years, according to the National Association of Realtors, a trade organization. (That rate of increase is now slowing, mostly because of the mortgage-lending crisis.)

By contrast, the median income for working-age households (those headed by someone under 65) is down 4% since 2000, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of Census Bureau data. That’s a drop of about $2,400 a year.

So for people dealing with American health care, energy, fuel, child care, and tax expenses, the additional expense of a mortgage is simply out of the question.

In a sense, nothing the article says is new to any of us who hover in the margins of the housing market, circling like vultures in wait for real estate to get sick and die so we can finally get our mouthful. But one part of this piece really did hit me, because it articulated something I have never really understood in myself: why do I feel such an intense desire to own my own home? Why should such a thing be so deep in my bloodstream as to cause physical reaction, actual pining?

The urge to have our own bit of land is etched in the American DNA. As settlers pushed west during the mid-1800s, President Lincoln’s Homestead Act granted land to anyone willing to farm on it. After World War II, Americans streamed into new bedroom communities complete with a garage, a front porch and a Labrador retriever that dug holes in the fenced backyard.

But the homes our parents took for granted are slipping out of reach.

So, as the chilly rain pours down from the gun metal sky today, I bring you this blog of zero cheer. Would love to be reassured, if anyone is more sunny than me today, or at the very least, to be accompanied in misery.