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Affordable Housing

EDITORIAL: Valley housing costs low relative to rest of nation

Most Americans dream of owning a home. Many, however, find it difficult to do so and some will never have the income to make that dream a reality.

Fortunately, that dream can be more easily realized in the Rio Grande Valley than in most other U.S. cities.

HomeArea.com, an online housing market resource for consumers and researchers, reports that Pharr has the most affordable housing in Texas among cities with 60,000 or more residents. Edinburg ranks third and Mission sixth.

Other Valley cities fared well also, with Harlingen placing 12th, Brownsville 16th and McAllen 34th.

The rankings used the Median Multiple, which the website says is the World Bank’s recommended metric for determining housing affordability: the ratio between an area’s median home price and the median household income. The numbers don’t necessarily mean housing costs are the lowest; a city with higher home prices might still be considered affordable if incomes in the area also are high.

For example, Pharr’s median home price is about $71,000, a little more than double the mean income of $32,000. Edinburg’s $98,200 median home price compares with its $42,000 median income.

HomeArea also lists cities with the cheapest overall housing costs, and Valley cities fare well in that category as well.

That list computes major costs associated with owning a house, regardless of income: mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance, utilities and condominium fees, as well as rent and utilities for renters. On that scale, Pharr ranked third in the nation with Harlingen fifth, Mission 10th and Brownsville 12th.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, housing usually is the largest expense families endure, costing about a third of their annual salary. By comparison, food expense is roughly 13 percent. Thus, affordable housing often is a major consideration when people are thinking about making a move.

Thus, the latter metric might be more important for such considerations, since it better reflects community conditions. For example, lower utilities can mean a more agreeable climate as well as efficient supplies of electricity, water and wastewater services. Insurance is affected by low crime rates such as those found in the Valley.

Perhaps most notably, with our state’s reliance on property taxes to fund so many public services, those numbers can reflect the efforts of local city, county and school boards to be frugal in their budgeting and keeping property taxes as low as possible.

The Valley housing market benefits from available land and low construction costs. But other factors that affect the cost of living, such as favorable insurance, utility and tax rates, are a testament to residents and officials who look for ways to keep the manageable costs down. They might not often receive thanks for their efforts, but that gratitude is deserved.

Source: Themonitor

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