Youngstown Among Most Affordable Housing Markets for Black Residents

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A recent national housing study ranks the Youngstown–Warren–Boardman OH–Mercer PA Metropolitan Statistical Area among the top 10 metros in the nation for affordability, particularly among Black consumers.

Increased housing prices and ongoing inventory shortages are making it difficult for some house-hunters to buy a house nationally. In the report “The Double Trouble of the Housing Market,” the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, and reviewed affordability for all income groups and accounted for the affordability of homes currently available rather than those already sold.

Nationally, there were 245,300 affordable houses for households earning $75,000 to $100,000 in December 2021. That compares to 656,200 in December 2019 – a more than 400,000-unit drop in two years, according to the report.

And while the total home valuation across the country is estimated to have increased by $8.1 trillion from the first quarter of 2020 to the end of 2021, the national ownership rate has held steady at 65%.

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

An increase in salary generally makes housing more affordable for a buyer, but reductions in inventory over the last few years mean those buyers can afford a smaller number of homes in some markets, explains Danielle Hale, chief economist with Fewer homes to satisfy demand means prices will increase.

“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,” Hale says.

Since 2017, the annual homeownership rate for white Americans has comfortably above 70%, while the homeownership rate for Black Americans has been slightly above 40%, according to the report.

Nationally, 35% of white households earn more than $100,000, compared to just 20% of Black households. More than half of all homes currently listed for sale (51%) are affordable to households with at least $100,000, “and substantial variances in affordability exist by metro area,” the report states.

More expensive metros like Los Angeles and San Francisco are becoming increasingly difficult to afford a home, “especially for Black households,” says Yun.

“At the same time, there are affordable markets that still provide opportunities to achieve homeownership as inventory at affordable price points is reasonably available,” he says.

The report ranked the Youngstown OH–PA metro area ninth in the U.S. among areas with the most homes for sale for households earning $75,000 to $100,000. The local metro – which includes Mahoning and Trumbull counties in Ohio and Mercer County in Pennsylvania – has 573 affordable listings, or one affordable listing available per 45 households in that income group, compared to one listing for every 65 households nationally.

In its analysis for the top 10 areas for Black households, the association selected the areas with the highest affordability score, says Nadio Evangelou, NAR senior economist and director of forecasting. The affordability score represents the overall affordability for all different income levels in a single measure. NAR calculated affordability scores by race/ethnic group and location as of December 2021.

“The Youngstown, OH-PA metro area is one of the areas with the highest affordability scores for Black households,” Evangelou said in an emailed response. “To give you an idea, while the median household income for African-American homebuyers was nearly $40,000 in 2020, households that earn $35,000-$50,000 can afford to buy 66% of the homes currently available for sale in the Youngstown metro area. Specifically, there are about 440 active listings that they can afford to buy.”

This placed the Youngstown metro area as the second most affordable area for Black households with an affordability score of 0.9. Four Ohio metros ranked in the top 10 for the category, which was topped by Akron with an affordability score of 0.93 – meaning 77% of Black households in Akron earn less than $75,000 and can afford 72% of the active listings there.

Affordability scores among other race/ethnic groups in the area include 1.3 for Whites, 1.4 for Asians and 1.1 for Hispanics.

According to the American Community Survey, the Black homeownership rate in the Youngstown metro area was 39% in 2020, Evangelou reports. Moreover, the median value of the homes that Black households purchased in 2020 was about $110,000.

In the NAR/ report, the Youngstown metro ranked consistently in the top 10 areas with most homes for sale for the different household earning segments, including households earning:

  • Less than $15,000 | Ranked first with 150 affordable homes, or one listing per 230 households
  • $15,000-$24,999 | Ranked second with 221 affordable homes, or one listing per 121 households
  • $25,000-$34,999 | Ranked first with 336 affordable homes, or one listing per 74 households
  • $35,000-$49,999 | Ranked second with 428 affordable homes, or one listing per 78 households
  • $50,000-$74,999 | Ranked fourth with 517 affordable homes, or one listing per 81 households
  • $75,000-$99,000 | Ranked ninth with 573 affordable homes, or one listing per 45 households
  • $125,000-$149,999 | Ranked ninth with 615 affordable homes, or one listing per 15 households
  • $200,000-$249,999 | Ranked sixth with 636 affordable homes, or one listing per four households
  • $250,000-$499,999 | Ranked fifth with 644 affordable homes, or one listing per four households

Aiding the affordability of houses in the Mahoning Valley are historically low interest rates and the area’s location between two major metros: Pittsburgh and Cleveland, says Dennis Gonatas, president of the Youngstown Columbiana Association of Realtors and agent with Burgan Real Estate in Youngstown.

“When you’re in the center of two areas where the cost of living is high, it makes Youngstown more appealing,” Gonatas says. “The dollar goes a lot further here, even when you compare us to Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Here, you can get a 200,000-square-foot house move-in ready for $175,000 to $210,000, depending on the area you’re looking in.”

He cites areas like Gypsy Lane and the Wick Park area, which boasts “massive houses” that can sell in the $60,000 to $70,000 price range. “But you take that house out of here and move it to a Columbus or a California, and that $60,000 to $70,000 house is now a couple million dollar house.”

Gonatas, who has worked as a real estate agent since 2014, says location, amenities and potential city taxes may factor into a consumer’s decision of where they buy.

Other local trends show millennials are getting into the housing market more and condos are in high demand, Gonatas says. With regard to inventory, the cost of building materials increases the price tags on new houses and minimizes new builds overall.

However, NAR’s Evangelou reports construction is increasing at a faster rate in the Youngstown metro area than the rest of the U.S. Last year, the area saw about 46% new homes built compared to 2019, while total permits increased 27% nationally for the same period.

“Thus, more homes are expected to enter the market in the following months,” Evangelou said.

Photo by Any Lane from Pexels

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