High home prices frustrating many voters


WASHINGTON (AP) — Lori Shelton can't fathom ever having the money to buy a home — and that's a major reason why so many voters feel down on the economy ahead of this year's presidential election.

Shelton, 67, drives an Uber to help pay rent in Aurora, Colorado. An advance on her pay covered her apartment's security deposit. But it also cut into her next paycheck, leaving her bank account dangerously low when the rent was due — a cycle that never seems to end.

“I'm always one step behind,” said Shelton, her voice choking up. “It’s a nightmare, it’s a freaking nightmare right now.”

The United States is slogging through a housing affordability crisis. The shortage strikes at the heart of the American dream of homeownership — dampening President Joe Biden's assurances that the U.S. economy is strong.

The lack of housing has caused a record number of renters to devote an excessive amount of income to housing, according to a Harvard University analysis. Average mortgage rates have more than doubled and further worsened affordability.

The Census Bureau reported that homeownership fell slightly at the end of last year. 

“I’ve been doing housing work for 30 years — the housing affordability challenge is the worst I've ever seen in my career,” said Shaun Donovan, a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama years who now leads the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that the outcome of the November election could ultimately depend on the path of 30-year mortgage rates.

Rates currently average about 6.74%. If they dropped closer to 6%, the odds of a Biden victory would increase. But rates moving near 8% might enable Trump to prevail, Zandi said.

“Given the current housing affordability crisis, higher rates will make owning a home completely out of reach for nearly all potential first-time homebuyers,” he said. “Since homeownership is a key part of the American dream, if it appears unattainable, this will deeply impact voters’ sense of the economy.”