About 43.9 percent of new and resale homes sold in the first quarter were affordable to families earning the national income, according to the latest Housing Opportunity Index data released this week by the National Association of Home Builders trade group and Wells Fargo.

That compares to 41.6 percent of homes sold in fourth-quarter 2006 and 41.3 percent of homes sold in first-quarter 2006.

An estimated 93.5 percent of homes in Kokomo, Ind., were affordable for median-income families, according to the report, making it the most affordable metro area in the country.

Next on the list was Lansing-East Lansing, Mich., at 91.1 percent; followed by Lima, Ohio, at 90.4 percent; Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, Mich., 89.6 percent; Bay City, Mich., 89.5 percent; Mansfield, Ohio, 89.1 percent; Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., 89 percent; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., 89 percent; Dayton, Ohio, 87.9 percent; and Flint, Mich.; 84.9 percent.

The Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., and Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., metro areas tied for the title of most affordable major U.S. housing market in the first quarter with 500,000 or more people, according to the index report.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif., metro area, meanwhile, was the least affordable metro area in the country, according to the index report, with a 3 percent share of homes affordable for median-income families.

This metro area has ranked as the least affordable major metro market for the past 10 quarters, and Salinas has ranked as the least affordable small metro market (500,000 or fewer people) for the past four quarters.

Following the Los Angeles area on the list of least affordable markets was Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif., at 4.4 percent; followed by Salinas, Calif., at 4.6 percent; Merced, Calif., 5.6 percent; Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif., 6 percent; New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., 6 percent; San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif., 6.7 percent; Napa, Calif., 6.7 percent, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif., 6.9 percent; and Modesto, Calif., 7 percent.

Nine of the top-10, 17 of the top-20 and 25 of the top-30 least affordable markets are in California. Seven of the top-15 most affordable markets are in Michigan, and 17 of the top-20 most affordable markets are in Indiana, Ohio or Michigan.

The highest median-priced home, at $748,000, was in the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif., metro area, while the lowest median-priced home, at $69,000, was in Elmira, N.Y.

The lowest median family income was $30,000 in Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas, and the highest was $101,100 in Bethesda-Gaithersburg-Frederick, Md.

The report includes 219 metros: 43 in the Northeast, 38 in the West, 71 in the South and 67 in the West.

According to the index report, the national weighted interest rate on prime quality fixed-rate and adjustable-rate home mortgages, which is to calculate the index, slipped to 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 6.52 percent in fourth-quarter 2006. This is the lowest level since first-quarter 2006, when it was measured at 6.39 percent

The home builders group noted that the Department of Housing and Urban Development this year began to use data from the American Community Survey collected in 2005 as the basis for estimating median family incomes, and the agency had previously used the 2000 Census as the basis for these income estimates.

“Because of differences in the underlying surveys, comparisons between HUD’s median family incomes for 2007 and prior years are not valid,” according to the report. “Nationally, the estimated median family income for 2007 is 1 percent lower than it would be following previous data collection procedures. As a result, some metropolitan areas will appear to have lower median incomes for 2007 than previously.”

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