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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-18-07, 08:04 PM   #1
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Affordable Housing

I realize that housing costs vary in the different parts of the country as well as the world. The link to the BBC article that Elkhound posted got me thinking about what constitutes "affordable housing" and what you expect to get for that amount. I did an informal survey tonight and most of the people that I polled are what I consider normal work force, service type employees. Most quoted prices in the $70-$80k range and would be happy with a patio home or small 2-3 bedroom home in a safe neighborhood on a small lot.

What are your thoughts? Dollars or percents is fine, just curious as to what others see as affordable. FWIW my wife and I qualify for a $350k mortgage but there in no way in hell that I would put that much into a house. We currently own our land and home(s) free and clear. As a percentage I think double a years income is a reasonable amount to expect to pay, but I also realize that market and location plays into the actual pricing. Also the lower the income the less likely they are going to be able to afford a place, due to food and energy costs.

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Old 12-18-07, 08:33 PM   #2
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I did an informal survey tonight and most of the people that I polled are what I consider normal work force, service type employees. Most quoted prices in the $70-$80k range and would be happy with a patio home or small 2-3 bedroom home in a safe neighborhood on a small lot.
Aaron
Where are these 80K homes with 2-3 bedrooms in a safe neighborhood? LOL

I think the last time I saw a home in N.J costing 80K was during the Nixon administration!

Today, a home is going to cost about 350K minimum. A fixer upper can be hand for about 275K and you'll probably have to put about 25K in cash to correct the minimal problems. In New York City, there are apartments that rent for 70K a year. Yes, that's correct rent not own!
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Old 12-18-07, 09:21 PM   #3
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My friend just bought a house here in Denver for $105,000... three bedroom, detached garage with a separate room and bathroom... There are other houses in the neighborhood going for <$60,000...

There have been more than 50 home sales in the neighborhood in the past 6 months... and lots of work going on remodeling, painting, and such.

The neighborhood isn't the best, but it's certainly no ghetto, either... and it looks like people are starting to buy in the area... maybe wanting to live in closer to downtown? It's about 1/4 mile to the Platte River bike path, and just slightly further to the light rail and shopping.
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Old 12-18-07, 09:38 PM   #4
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I live in an ~800 square foot home it is 2 small bedrooms with no closets so really just one bedroom or bedroom small study. Cost 150k which seems like alot until you look at my old director who lived east of central park in NYC and had a similar size apartment with nearly the same layout that sold for over 1 million. Both places are smaller then a single wide trailer which you could get for 32k new and nicely equipped or 40k specced out to a modular which looks like a little ranch style home and plop it down onto your plot of land.
It really so much depends on where you want to live. I know my director made more then me but I don't think it was 7 times more. He paid to live in NYC and I pay for living a bit in the suburbs but <2 miles from major shopping centers.
% or $? My first real estate agent said 25% of salary after taxes should be the most but I think she was very conservative (monthly income vs payment). Probably not a bad guideline and I wouldn't want to spend any more then that.
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Old 12-19-07, 06:52 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
Where are these 80K homes with 2-3 bedrooms in a safe neighborhood? LOL

I think the last time I saw a home in N.J costing 80K was during the Nixon administration!

Today, a home is going to cost about 350K minimum. A fixer upper can be hand for about 275K and you'll probably have to put about 25K in cash to correct the minimal problems. In New York City, there are apartments that rent for 70K a year. Yes, that's correct rent not own!
My point exactly! We have one neighborhood in the larger city near me than has homes in that price range, but you have to beat off the drug dealers to get to your front door.

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Old 12-19-07, 07:23 AM   #6
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Where are these 80K homes with 2-3 bedrooms in a safe neighborhood? LOL

!
They are here. 80k wil buy a decent house in a decent neighborhood. 200k will buy a really nice house in a really decent, really safe, bike friendly neighborhood, with great schools.
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Old 12-19-07, 07:34 AM   #7
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I think the percentage commonly used is no more than 28% of gross income. 28% is the entire monthly payment.

i'm right there with you wahoonc: "qualify" for expensive home but.... why? my family & i live in a very comfortable, efficient 1400sq ft, 10yr old house, cost $105k. any more would go from comfort to luxury. And we're not "fancy" enough people to want it very bad

"affordability" will very a lot by income level, location, and perceived needs.... I consider it "affordable" if it doesn't hurt too much to pay, i.e. I'm not stressed about making my next payment.
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Old 12-19-07, 08:17 AM   #8
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I think the percentage commonly used is no more than 28% of gross income. 28% is the entire monthly payment.
That looks like the official quoted number 28% of gross for the entire payment and then no more then 36% total recurring debt. Sadly too many people use that as their shopping target and not look at what they really need. First time something happens to the house AC/Roof/Siding/Windows and they have to take out their equity or liquidate their savings.
I think affordable is when you can make double payments to your mortage and it doesn't hurt Not that you should if you have better places to put the money but it is nice to have the buffer and not get killed when maintenance issues appear..
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Old 12-19-07, 08:53 AM   #9
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25-30% of gross monthly salary towards owning a house sounds a bit on the low side for our housing prices. I believe banks today suggest 30-40% max, so many people unfortunately take that as a target. And there's no way I could get a home I like at 2 x yearly gross income from where I live. More like 5 x for a 3-4 bedroom house. Of course all our houses need to have proper insulation and heating systems, and the obligatory sauna. It all adds up. But still, it seems we put larger portion of income to house ownership.

What kind of periods of repayment do banks usually offer in US? When I bought my first own home, I was looking at roughly 20 years of monthly payments, and the maximum at that time was about 30 years. It has gone up from that since then.

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Old 12-19-07, 09:20 AM   #10
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25-30% of gross monthly salary towards owning a house sounds a bit on the low side for our housing prices. I believe banks today suggest 30-40% max, so many people unfortunately take that as a target. And there's no way I could get a home I like at 2 x yearly gross income from where I live. More like 5 x for a 3-4 bedroom house. Of course all our houses need to have proper insulation and heating systems, and the obligatory sauna. It all adds up. But still, it seems we put larger portion of income to house ownership.

What kind of periods of repayment do banks usually offer in US? When I bought my first own home, I was looking at roughly 20 years of monthly payments, and the maximum at that time was about 30 years. It has gone up from that since then.

--J
Hey Juha - do you use the % numbers from your gross or net? I have the impression taxes are very hi in Finland - is that right?

Alot of folks buy houses 3-5x annual salary, sometimes cause they have to (expensive area), more often cause they want to and there is a misperception that housing is a "good investment". but that's another topic...

Typical loans here are 15 and 30 years. I believe they were offering 50yr loans for a while but I suspect the availability of those loans has shrunk due to the credit crunch.

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Old 12-19-07, 09:53 AM   #11
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Hey Juha - do you use the % numbers from your gross or net? I have the impression taxes are very hi in Finland - is that right?
You're right, it ends up being about the same. My bad. Taxes are fairly high here, I consider myself middle class in this respect and I pay about 30% in taxes.

I've seen 50-60 year loans offered here too, and I believe they are fairly common in neighbouring Sweden. There's also reversed loan, mainly for elderly people, where they sell their house to the bank but retain the right to live in it. The bank then pays them the price of the house plus interest in monthly installments.

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Old 12-19-07, 10:43 AM   #12
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"The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more then 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing, and a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States."

http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/affordablehousing/
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Old 12-19-07, 10:49 AM   #13
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I make $42K, nice houses in my neighborhood are at a baseline $300K. Yep...I can afford a house.</sarcasm>
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Old 12-19-07, 11:11 AM   #14
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I live in Pittsburgh. The housing here is relatively affordable.

I own 2 duplexes near each other in the Eastern part of town. They are 3 minutes to the main bus line, and about a 30 minute bike commute to town and about a 3 minute walk to a 1200 acre city park with great mountain bike trail and dog walking. One I bought 8 years ago for 120K, the other, I've owned for 18 months. I paid 205, with no down for that one.

Another nearby duplex recently sold for 205K and it is smaller than the 120K one. So it is a safe bet that that one is worth about 205 now.

The one that I bought for 205 is still worth about that.

a) mortgage is 1100 (6.5%, 30 yr fixed)
b) mortgage is 1800 (7%, 30 yr fixed)
out 2900
a) makes 1900/month
b) makes 700/month
in 2600

So it costs me about 300 a month for 3K sq feet and 2 3 car garages. Plus I have 3 people paying me 2600/month towards my mortgages and at least 8K a year in tax savings due to depreciation!

We know the area well and have had 100% ocupantcy.

Something to consider.
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Old 12-19-07, 11:13 AM   #15
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I make $42K, nice houses in my neighborhood are at a baseline $300K. Yep...I can afford a house.</sarcasm>
<kidding>
You just gotta spread your search a little further If you head on over to mccandless you can get a nice 3 br 1.5 bath for 434 a month. Of course the gas heater will probably eat you alive with $$$s and it may be falling apart but well you can't have it all
Plus it must be a nice place to live since there are no registered sex offenders living in this place in early 2007.
</kidding>
The only places I could ever ever afford back east were in great need of work in places that weren't exactly great places to live. Fortunately my father and mother both work with builders and various tradespeople and I got by relatively unharmed with any fixes. The last place was bridgeport, CT which had double the average us crime index and the poorest schools in Connecticut which meant cheap housing at the time. With multiple dogs you almost have to own. There is affordable housing there and it was by far the cheapest place in fairfield county but it was nearly a sin to live there people were scared for me and thought I was in poverty when I said I lived there.
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Old 12-19-07, 11:39 AM   #16
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One way to look at "affordable" is to think "right sized" which excludes
ALL of the McMansion's & Suburbia built in the last 25>30+ yrs.

"Right sized" is smaller and more energy effecient while still being a good shelter.
All one has to do to see "right sized" is look at home built before 1970's when the
housing flipping maddness started. People in the 70's and on almost always built, or
bought, a house not so much to live in as to profit from based on the ever upward
house of cards profits that all expected to get. Those of us who bought older homes
to "live in" rode over the craziness of the housing market.

So in order to come close to understanding "affordable" one must first understand
"right sized". Anything else is a fools game.
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Old 12-19-07, 11:41 AM   #17
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When I lived near Palm Springs I watched one house sell for $30,000 and six years later sell for $300,000. The population only rose 5% in that time, so I had to guess that speculation was what drove up prices.

Prices are much more reasonable here in Little Rock. Houses in a nice neighborhood go for $150-200K. Decent neighborhoods are probably in the $60-100K range and you can buy a house for $20K.
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Old 12-19-07, 12:17 PM   #18
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Check this out--
http://www.moving.com/Find_a_Place/Compare2Cities/

There is more to the picture that cheap housing.
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Old 12-19-07, 12:57 PM   #19
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When I lived near Palm Springs I watched one house sell for $30,000 and six years later sell for $300,000. The population only rose 5% in that time, so I had to guess that speculation was what drove up prices.

Prices are much more reasonable here in Little Rock. Houses in a nice neighborhood go for $150-200K. Decent neighborhoods are probably in the $60-100K range and you can buy a house for $20K.
i lived in CA for 15 years. when my folks sold their house in 1989, it was on the market for 2 hours and sold for about 8 times what they paid 10yrs previously. Pure speculation.

I like Arkansas - may buy some land & build a cabin out there to retire to. I do not like the dry counties tho
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Old 12-19-07, 01:00 PM   #20
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One way to look at "affordable" is to think "right sized" which excludes
ALL of the McMansion's & Suburbia built in the last 25>30+ yrs.

"Right sized" is smaller and more energy effecient while still being a good shelter.
All one has to do to see "right sized" is look at home built before 1970's when the
housing flipping maddness started. People in the 70's and on almost always built, or
bought, a house not so much to live in as to profit from based on the ever upward
house of cards profits that all expected to get. Those of us who bought older homes
to "live in" rode over the craziness of the housing market.

So in order to come close to understanding "affordable" one must first understand
"right sized". Anything else is a fools game.
An interesting aspect of this "right-sized" stuff is that a lot of pre-1960 houses that I have seen were built large enough to accomodate a family of 12. A lot of people are tempted to move a family of 5 or fewer into these sorts of houses. The one I live in, however, is divided into apartments and I live with one person in a sixth of the original house. If the two of us were sharing the whole building, it certainly wouldn't be right-sized.


I'd say living in a one-bedroom apartment is pretty good for me from the budget perspective. I don't earn much but my half of the rent comes to about 25% of my (net) income. All my other expenses eat up somewhere between 10 and 25% of my net income, depending on how you count things... which leaves me plenty of money to save or to spend on frivolous stuff.
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Old 12-19-07, 01:04 PM   #21
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As I recall, the average size of simgle-family houses built in the last few years is 2,700sq feet

that is big.

as an aside, another hobby of mine (home theater) takes me to sites & forums very much into the bigger-is-better mentality. Many of the houses these guys have are NUTS. One fellow I know from work added a 750sq ft "media room", with home theater & wet bar, onto his 5,200 sq ft house. He has a family of 4 living in the house.... media room cost him $90k.
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Old 12-19-07, 02:21 PM   #22
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An interesting aspect of this "right-sized" stuff is that a lot of pre-1960 houses that I have seen were built large enough to accomodate a family of 12. A lot of people are tempted to move a family of 5 or fewer into these sorts of houses. The one I live in, however, is divided into apartments and I live with one person in a sixth of the original house. If the two of us were sharing the whole building, it certainly wouldn't be right-sized.
The "Victorian" era houses you refer to were built by the wealthy of the day and don't number
that many really. Most were bought up to sub-divide into apartments as many know.

The Victorian workingman's house is more the right sized that I ment. That or the workingman's
houses of the early 20th century to the 1960's.
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Old 12-19-07, 04:22 PM   #23
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This story plays directly into the whole concept of "affordable",
or right sized, housing AND being car free/lite.

"There are very few absolutely "safe" investments out there. Stocks can plummet, real estate markets can crash, and sudden spikes in inflation can erode the value of savings deposits in even the safest bank account. So how do you make yourself secure? To a financial planner, the answer lies in diversification. Simply put, don't put all your eggs, or your money, in one basket. Barring a major catastrophe, a diversified investment portfolio should be able to ride out even the steepest economic peaks and valleys. While I have no problem with this advice, I would argue that the "diversification" most financial planners are talking about just scratches the surface. I'm personally working towards a different, and much deeper, financial security.

Conventional wisdom offers three general steps towards ensuring both short-term and long-term financial health. Step one: get out of debt and stay out of debt. Step two: start an emergency fund and make sure you have adequate insurance (health, disability, life, home, vehicle etc.) to protect yourself and your dependents. Step three: invest a reasonable amount of your income towards the day you no longer have an income. Entire books have been written about each one of these steps, and most of which are available for free at your local library. But there are three more strategies that can increase your financial security even further. These are the strategies that many of our grandparents practiced during the Depression, and during other periods when money was tight.

Strategy 1 - Learn practical skills that you can use either to save money or to barter for other resources or skills. I'm a writer by profession, but I can also cut hair, tutor English, sew, cook, bake, garden, paint, and even perform light carpentry. My husband is a teacher, but his list of practical skills would fill a page. These skills add significantly to our financial security. By saving us money, they allow us to live comfortably on less income than many of our friends require. They are also useful as potential sources of secondary income.

Strategy 2 - Build a strong social and/or family network. Our grandparents understood the importance of community, the original all-purpose insurance policy. When someone in our own community or network of friends is in need, we offer what help we can. It's a way to repay the people that have helped us in the past, and a kind of investment should we need a hand ourselves in the future.

Strategy 3 - Live modestly. Conventional wisdom says you should live in the biggest house, drive the most expensive car, and have the most expansive lifestyle you can afford. But living more modestly offers far more security and serenity in my experience. Even if you pay off the mortgage on that big house, you'll still have higher utility and maintenance bills to deal with, not to mention insurance premiums and property taxes. The same goes for the insurance and gas bills for the luxury car. Live simply and within your means, and you'll be in a much better position if your investments sour or your financial situation changes suddenly.

Protecting yourself financially is a multi-step process. It's impossible to predict every scenario you or your family could face in the future. There are, however, some steps you can take to influence a more favorable outcome, no matter what happens. I know these strategies help me sleep more peacefully at night."

http://www.stretcher.com/stories/07/07dec17b.cfm
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I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

Originally Posted by krazygluon
Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?
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Old 12-19-07, 06:23 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by slagjumper View Post
Check this out--
http://www.moving.com/Find_a_Place/Compare2Cities/

There is more to the picture that cheap housing.

That's a great page. Very interesting comparing places that I've lived. The average house price in my zip code is 168,000. It's a nice zip code.
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Old 12-20-07, 04:04 PM   #25
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It's easy to be car free if you live and work in San Francisco. But it's even easier to be house free since houses start at around $800,000 (except maybe in Bayview/Hunter's Point where you might get one for $650,000). Wages are higher here, but not high enough.
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