Americans can barely afford homes — and that’s a problem for Biden

Mark Niquette | Bloomberg News (TNS)

Record-low U.S. housing affordability is squeezing homebuyers and renters while threatening to spill into presidential politics.

Milwaukee, the largest city in key swing state Wisconsin, saw affordability deteriorate in its rental market more than almost any U.S. metro area in the year ended July, according to a measure by the National Association of Realtors. The region also recorded one of the greatest increases in mortgage burden among the biggest 50 metros in the past year, data from Zillow show.

The housing situation in Milwaukee, the site of next year’s Republican National Convention, is a version of a scenario playing out in cities across the country: U.S. mortgage rates in August hit the highest level since 2000, which has translated into the fewest home-buying applications in decades. Adding to the pressure is the scarcity of inventory, which has helped push selling prices, as well as rents, to near record-high levels.

Milwaukee’s crunch stands out, though, because housing in the region has traditionally been relatively stable and cheap, and because it has potential for political fallout: Among large metro areas in swing states, it had the greatest decrease in housing affordability in the past year.

That could shape voters’ views of their own prosperity and the wider U.S. economy, creating a political vulnerability for President Joe Biden — especially with young voters, who are hard-hit by declining housing affordability. Biden can ill afford any setback in a state he won by just 20,682 votes in 2020. Philadelphia, another major population center in a closely fought battleground state, is also among the U.S. metros with the largest increases in mortgage burdens last year, according to Zillow data.

“It contributes to a general sense that the American dream is out of reach, and that if the Democratic Party promises a middle-class American dream and it’s failing, then I think those voters are more likely to listen to the Republican Party,” said Wendy Schiller, a Brown University political science professor.


School teachers Maggie Golab, 35, and Jenny Rechlicz, 31, began looking for a starter home in Milwaukee after getting married in July. After looking at 21 houses and getting outbid on three of them, they were finally able to purchase a small bungalow in the Washington Heights neighborhood this month.

While they are pleased with the location, they had to bid above the asking price, and were only able to afford the home because the upstairs and basement are unfinished. They’ll have to spend the next few years remodeling to get the livable space they wanted, Golab said.

“It was definitely very frustrating and kind of heartbreaking,” Golab said of the home-buying process, noting that prices for homes in certain neighborhoods were way higher than she anticipated.

Milwaukee historically has had a relatively stable and affordable housing market, meaning higher costs have a larger proportional affect there than in volatile markets such as in the Sun Belt, said Mark Eppli, director of the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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