Is American Dream Still Attainable?

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The classic American dream is well on its way to turning into a nightmare for millions of low- and moderate-income families across the nation.

Yes, they are buying houses at record rates. But they're struggling desperately to keep their status as homeowners afloat, as evidenced by a report released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

The results of this study have particular reverberations for a right-to-work state like Arizona, and an area like the Rim country, where minimum-wage jobs are the standard and home prices are through the roof.

Consider some of these JCHS statistics and wonder what the local picture might look like in another five or 10 years:

More than 14 million owner and renter households spent more than half their incomes on housing in 1999 in the face of the established 30-percent-of-income threshold for affordability.

More and more, it is taking two incomes to afford housing for low- and moderate-income families and there is not a single state in the nation in which full-time minimum wage work is enough to afford, at 30 percent of income, a two-bedroom apartment at the federal fair-market rent.

Although national home sales were hitting record levels at the beginning of this year, mortgage costs for the typical homebuyer rose so much faster than income that the rising cost alone absorbed most of the income gain.

Despite the booming economy in the second half of the 1990s, one in seven men and one in 12 women between the ages of 25 and 34 live with their parents. Meanwhile, the share of people living in three-generation households also increased.

Yes, it's a pretty grim picture for the nation. But for many who want to live and work in Payson, the American dream could become unattainable.

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