Seven of the 10 least affordable housing markets in the nation during the first quarter are in California, while metro areas in Ohio and Michigan account for seven of the nation’s most affordable metro areas, according to a report released today by the National Association of Home Builders.

Los Angeles remained the least affordable housing market with a population above 500,000 for the 14th consecutive quarter in first-quarter 2008, while Indianapolis remained the most affordable major U.S. housing market for the 11th straight quarter.

Kokomo, Ind., was the least affordable housing market with a population below 500,000 among the 223 metro areas tracked by the builders trade group, and Salinas, Calif., topped the list of smaller metro areas for the lowest affordability ranking.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Affordability Index, a measure of the percentage of homes sold in a given area that are affordable to families earning a median income for that area, increased to 53.8 percent in the first quarter. That means an estimated 53.8 percent of median-income families in the U.S. could afford to buy a median-priced home, based on a national median income of $61,500, a national median price of $219,000 and a weighted interest rate of 6.02 percent.

The index reached its highest level in the first quarter since second-quarter 2004, when an estimated 55.6 percent of homes were affordable to median-income families.

Fixed-rate mortgages have been gaining in share since second-quarter 2005, rising from 67 percent in that quarter to 92 percent in the first quarter with the decline in the use of adjustable-rate mortgages.

Kokomo, where an estimated 95.3 percent of homes were considered affordable to median-income families in first-quarter 2008, was followed by Lima, Ohio; Cumberland, Md.-W.V.; Lansing, Mich; Springfield, Ohio; Battle Creek, Mich.; Wheeling, W.V.-Ohio; Bay City, Mich.; Indianapolis; and Monroe, Mich., as the top-10 most affordable metro areas in the nation.

And Los Angeles was followed by New York City; San Francisco; Salinas; San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Napa, Calif.; Miami; Sana Ana, Calif.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Nassau, N.Y., as the least affordable metro areas in the nation, according to the index report.

A separate report today by the California Association of Realtors found that housing affordability for first-time buyers was 44 percent in the first quarter, compared with 26 percent for the same quarter last year and 33 percent in fourth-quarter 2007.

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