(Source: Courtenay Edelhart The Bakersfield Californian (MCT) — Local veterans are more likely than their counterparts nationally to be able to afford a place to live, according to a study released today by the National Housing Conference and its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy.
Their report, “Paycheck to Paycheck 2012: Can veterans afford housing in your community?”, explored trends in housing affordability for workers in five of the jobs targeted by veterans’ training programs sponsored by the Department of Labor: carpenters, dental assistants, electricians, firefighters and truck drivers.
Only one of those professions — electricians — earns wages high enough to afford to pay the mortgage on a home at typical prices nationwide, and workers in one of the jobs — dental assistant — can’t afford the typical nationwide rent on a two-bedroom apartment.
But in Bakersfield, a veteran trained in those professions with a few years of civilian work experience would be able to rent or buy.
All of the occupations would pay enough to afford the $665 a month average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Bakersfield or the $793 average rent for a two-bedroom in Bakersfield, according to the report.
People in any of the occupations also could afford to buy a house, assuming a 10 percent down payment, the use of private mortgage insurance, and including principal, interest, taxes and insurance.
That makes Bakersfield veterans more fortunate than veterans as a whole.
Generally, veterans who have returned to civilian life after military service have a hard time affording housing because rents are rising and banks have raised the standards to qualify for a mortgage, said study author and research associate Laura Williams.
“They have access to loan programs that aren’t available to the general public, and they can get fairly good paying jobs if they can find one,” she said. “But we also know that after being out of the workforce, often for multiple tours of duty, veterans suffer disproportionately from unemployment and sometimes have disabilities. That puts them much more at risk for falling into homelessness.”
The report said that in Bakersfield, it takes annual income of at least $32,478 to afford the mortgage on a $115,000 home, which the study identified as the median home price here in the first quarter of 2012.
That’s a lot lower than the June $145,000 median sale price for existing single-family homes in the Preliminary Crabtree Report, a monthly report on the local real estate market produced by Affiliated Appraisers.
The Crabtree Report says home prices are rising because the region’s inventory has plummeted. There are only about 545 homes for sale in the Bakersfield area, partly because investors snatched up a lot of the supply when the market hit bottom, and so far, they’re renting rather than flipping. Then, too, banks have avoided flooding the market with their foreclosures all at once to keep prices from plunging.
The National Housing Conference study crunched data from a variety of sources, including the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Opportunity Index, Salary.com and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Darron Mason, an agent with Karpe Real Estate, said the biggest challenge for local veterans is that Veterans Administration loan requirements motivate sellers to choose buyers with conventional or Federal Housing Administration loans over buyers with V.A. loans.
With a V.A. loan, for instance, the seller pays termite inspection, escrow and title fees, Mason said.
“Especially with inventory being so low, that makes it really hard for veterans to compete,” he said.
Michael Penney is interim director of the Kern County Veterans Service Department.
He said the local housing market is in “dire straights,” and veterans have it no better or worse than anyone else.
“I don’t think it’s just veterans,” he said. “I think it’s hard for anybody to get a loan right now.”
©2012 The Bakersfield Californian (Bakersfield, Calif.)
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