Report Shows ‘Double Trouble’ for Housing

A Black family stands on a cliff on the left, looking across the gap to a house on the right side.

© C.J. Burton - The Image Bank / Getty Images

Record-high home prices and record-low inventories, a combination labeled “double trouble” by analysts, are growing roadblocks for many Americans to achieve homeownership, particularly for Black Americans, according to a new analysis from the National Association of REALTORS® and®. The newly released report, The Double Trouble of the Housing Market,”examines the impacts of rapidly rising home prices and low inventories on housing affordability.

About 400,000 fewer affordable homes are available for sale for households earning $75,000 to $100,000 compared to before the pandemic began, according to the study. There’s one affordable listing available for every 65 households, a notable decrease in availability from one affordable listing for every 24 households in 2019 for this income segment, the study says.

Home prices have risen by double-digit gains over the past year. Nationwide, the total home valuation has surged by $8.1 trillion from the first quarter of 2020 through the end of 2021.

“The housing wealth gain has been sizable over the past two years,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, due to the ongoing inventory shortage and rising interest rates, homeownership attainment will become especially challenging unless drastically more housing supply is available.”

The low-inventory challenge is “particularly acute for some racial and ethnic groups who have faced greater hurdles to homeownership stemming from, among other things, lower incomes as a group,” adds Danielle Hale,®’s chief economist.

Rising home prices and record-low numbers of homes for sale have made it increasingly difficult for Black Americans to achieve homeownership, according to the report. Since 2017, the annual homeownership rate for White Americans has remained above 70%. But the homeownership rate for Black Americans has been only about 40%—some 30 percentage points lower. 

NAR and®’s report analyzed housing affordability by racial group to help explain the possible differences in homeownership. They found that 35% of White households but only 20% of Black households have incomes greater than $100,000. However, about half of all homes currently listed for sale—51%—are affordable only to households with at least $100,000 income. A significant and persistent racial homeownership gap exists in America, the report says. Despite the challenges, though, Black Americans are finding a path to homeownership in some markets like Baltimore, Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis. 

“There are affordable markets that still provide opportunities to achieve homeownership as inventory at affordable price points is reasonably available,” says Yun.

NAR Calls for More to Be Done

To increase the nation’s housing inventory, NAR has advocated for lawmakers to:

  • Include funding for affordable housing construction
  • Preserve, expand, and create tax incentives to renovate distressed properties
  • Convert unused commercial space to residential units
  • Encourage and incentivize zoning reform

Further, expanding new-home construction by an additional 550,000 units a year for 10 years would create 2.8 million new jobs and generate more than $400 billion in economic activity, NAR says. A separate report conducted by NAR and the Rosen Consulting Group, Housing is Critical Infrastructure: Social and Economic Benefits of Building More Housing, examines the causes of America’s housing shortage and provides a range of actions that can effectively address this longtime problem.