Trending: Who Can Afford to Buy A House

A "moderately priced home" in Danbury is valued in the neighborhood of $257,200, according to Census figures. And it's likely to look something like this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,586 square feet of living space, which is listed at $250,000.

A “modestly priced home” in Danbury is valued in the neighborhood of $257,200, according to Census figures. And it’s likely to look something like this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,586 square feet of living space, which is listed at $250,000.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a new report this week called Who Could Afford to Buy a Home in 2009, which details the trend of homeownership and affordability across the country, showing a dip in the average American’s ability to afford to buy a home.

Across the nation, 50.2 percent of American families were able to purchase a “modestly priced home” in their area in 2009. That rate is down from 58.4 percent of families in 2004. But how did the Census Bureau define affordability and modest priced homes?

Affordability, according to the Census, means “they could afford to purchase a modestly priced home with cash or could qualify for a 30-year conventional mortgage with a 5 percent down payment. A modestly priced home is one that is among the 25 percent least expensive owner-occupied homes in the area where a family lives.”

So what does it mean to be a modestly priced home in your town? Well, we culled 2009 census data to find the cut-off number for the home value of the bottom quartile of homes in every town across Southwestern Connecticut. Check this slideshow to see how much dough a”modestly priced home” is valued at in your town, and what that kind of home looks like.

The Census report shows that homeownership is becoming harder to attain for many Americans. According to the report,

The level of 2009 affordability for families coincided with a fall in the homeownership rate. In the fourth quarter of 2004, about 69 percent of American householders owned their home, compared with 67 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. Over this period, the number of owner households showed no statistically significant change (from 75.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2004 to 75.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2009). However, the number of renter households increased by 10 percent from 33.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2005 to 36.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. Between these two dates as housing values fell, many owners – especially those with lower incomes, smaller assets, and the most debt – became renters.

In other words, homeownership is becoming a little less attainable for the everyman and everywoman. The census says there are four primary reasons for this: High debt; Insufficient cash for a down payment; Poor credit history; or Interest rates that set the monthly mortgage payment too high for the family to afford on its current income.

Maggie Gordon