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Millions spend half of income on housing

September 23, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some of those hardest hit by the economic turmoil are homeowners. According to alarming new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, millions of cash-strapped Americans are spending at least half their income on housing. Nearly every day at an employment and training center in Pasadena, the staff greets new faces. They see people from all walks of life and education, all of whom have been laid off and are desperately seeking employment.

"Everybody comes here. Some people have been employed one month, two months, three months, up to six months. They cannot pay their mortgages. They cannot keep up with their kids' bills, their house bills," said Joumana Barakat, Workforce Investment Board.

Barakat works for a group that finds workers for employers. They also help people find jobs, free of charge. As the economy struggles, so do the people who show up at the training center for workshops. Many of the would-be employees are wondering how they will pay their bills, specifically their mortgages.

"It's a horrible feeling knowing that through whatever forces, bad lending practices, that this has happened, " said Iberville Beard, who is looking for work.

It used to be that if you were spending 30 percent of your monthly earning on just your mortgage payment, lenders and the government considered you to be financially strapped. But now more and more Americans are spending 40 to 50 percent of what they bring home each month just to make that single mortgage payment, and many of those homeowners live in California.

According to the Associated Press, 20 percent of homeowners in Stockton, Los Angeles, Riverside, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, San Francisco, and San Diego are spending at least half of what they make each month just on their mortgage. But the most cost-burdened homeowners in the country live in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach metropolitian area: 58 percent of homeowners spending 30 percent of their income on housing costs, and 29 percent spending half of their income or more on housing.

New numbers from the 2007 Census Bureau say 40 percent of all American homeowners are spending at least one-third of their income on mortgage payments. And the slightest financial burden can derail someone from making the payment on time.

Higher gas prices haven't helped and grocery prices have increased by 30 percent from 2007. The price hike in those necessities has left many homeowners feeling the pinch.

More than 4 million Americans are at least 30 days late on their loan payments, and almost 500,000 people have begun the foreclosure process. As many as 10 million homeowners owe more than their home is worth right now. They don't have the equity to fall back on and cascading foreclosures have created a domino effect, resulting in a big bailout plan from the Bush Administration with American taxpayers footing the bill.

"House payments are high," said Ron Holt, who is looking for work. "Unfortunately, I think, the mortgage companies are a little greedy and gave out loans to people that really couldn't afford. In my dad's era, the house payments shouldn't be more than one quarter of your take-home income. And I think that hasn't been held to."

 

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