Indianapolis maintained its standing as the most affordable major U.S. housing market for a sixth consecutive quarter in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), released this week.

Some 89 percent of Indianapolis homes sold in the fourth quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median household income of $65,100, and the median sales price of all homes sold in Indianapolis during that time was $113,000, down from the $122,000 median sales price in the previous quarter.

Nationwide, housing affordability edged slightly upward due to a noticeable decline in the average mortgage rate and a marginal downshift in the median price of all homes sold.

“Today’s HOI reading indicates that 41.6 percent of new and existing homes that were sold during the fourth quarter of 2006 were affordable to families earning the national median income of $59,600,” said NAHB President Brian Catalde, a home builder from Playa del Rey, Calif. “This is slightly better than the 40.4 percent of homes that were affordable to median-income earners in the third quarter and mostly due to more favorable mortgage rates near the end of the year.”

The HOI indicates that the national weighted interest rate on fixed- and adjustable-rate mortgages — a key component in calculating the HOI — was 6.52 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with 6.77 percent in the third quarter.

Also near the top of the list for affordable major metros this time around were Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.; Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, Mich.; Toledo, Ohio; and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., in that order.

Four smaller metro markets outranked all others in terms of housing affordability during the fourth quarter: Springfield, Ohio, was followed by Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.; Bay City, Mich.; and Mansfield, Ohio, respectively. Also, the small housing market of Canton-Massillon, Ohio, tied with Indianapolis on the affordability scale.

As for the nation’s least-affordable major housing market, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., captured that title for a ninth consecutive quarter. There, just 2 percent of new and existing homes sold during the fourth quarter were affordable to those earning the area’s median family income of $56,200. The median sales price of all homes sold in the area during the period was $525,000.

Other major metros at the bottom of the housing affordability chart included Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.; San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.; New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J.; and Modesto, Calif., in that order.

Among metro areas smaller than 500,000 people, every entry at the bottom of the affordability chart was located in California, starting with Salinas as the least affordable and followed by Napa, Merced, Santa Cruz-Watsonville and Santa Barbara-Santa Maria, Calif., respectively.

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