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The up escalator for 209 housing costs is back in business

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POSTED July 19, 2013 9:02 p.m.

The good news: Rents and home prices are moving up.

The bad news: Rents and home prices are moving up.

The silver lining of the collapse of housing prices starting in 2006 of 40 to 60 percent in the 209 region was that housing had become affordable for most people who both live and work within the Area Code that consists of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties. The three counties serve as the de facto affordable housing solution for the Bay Area.

At one point in 2009, the median price home in Lathrop, Manteca, Tracy, and Turlock cost less than 2.5 times the respective median household income in each city. Economists generally believe housing prices have to be 2.5 times the median household income to be affordable. At one point in 2005, home prices were 7.5 times the household income in Manteca and Tracy.

The reason homes kept selling and rents kept escalating was because the overwhelming number of buyers and even renters who were willing to pay more were being squeezed out of the Bay Area market where they worked by housing costs that were in the outer stratosphere. A tract home built by KB Homes in the East Bay would cost $880,000 while the same exact home in Manteca built the same year would cost under $430,000.

Housing prices have been rebounding often recording double digit gains in year-to-year comparisons. But given how far housing prices dropped that’s not the statistic that should get your attention. Rents are on the move. And given the fact they didn’t drop all that much during the Great Recession, it is not a good sign when it comes to housing affordability.

Three of the nation’s top five metro areas that saw the steepest rent increase for the second quarter of 2013 to April, May and June of this year according to MPF Research are in the Bay Area.

The list is topped by San Francisco with a 7.8 percent hike followed in second by Oakland with a 6.9 percent jump. San Jose comes in fifth at 5 percent.

That represents three large rocks being thrown into the housing pond that is the Bay Area-Northern San Joaquin Valley. The ripple effect will hit here as more and more people are forced to flee those cities to be able to afford to have a roof over their head. They may move to East Bay cities where the domino effect starts kicking into high gear. They will drive prices up at a faster clip forcing more people into the interior East Bay valleys and ultimately over the Altamont Pass.

That means once again economic forces in the 209 as well as Bay Area housing market dynamics will work in concert to drive prices up particularly in northern Stanislaus County and southern San Joaquin County.

People right now who plan to stay put in their respective communities but are renting because they feel no overwhelming economic reason to buy may want to reconsider their stance.

The up escalator in overall housing costs is back in business.

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