While housing is more affordable than ever for most U.S. families, the lack of financing available to them continues to constrain prospective homebuyers according to the most recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released on Thursday.   The Index indicates that 75.9 percent of all new and existing homes sold in the fourth quarter were within the financial reach of families earning the national median income of $64,200.  This is the highest number for the affordability index in its 20 year history.

HOI measures the percentage of homes sold in a given area that could be purchased by households earning that area's median income at current mortgage interest rates and assuming a 20 percent down payment. 

"While today's report indicates that homeownership is within reach of more households than it has been for more than two decades, overly restrictive lending conditions confronting home buyers and builders remain significant obstacles to many potential homes sales, even with interest rates at historically low levels," said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of NAHB.

The metropolitan area encompassing Youngstown Ohio and Boardman, Pennsylvania was the most affordable major housing market in the country with 95.1 percent of all homes sold during the quarter affordable under the NAHB definition.  The area's median income is $54,900.  Other major MSAs ranking at the top in affordability are Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida; Modesto, California; Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Toledo, Ohio.

The most affordable small housing market was Kokomo, Indiana where 99.2 percent of homes were affordable to families earning the median income of $59,100. Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index included Fairbanks, Alaska; Cumberland, Maryland; Lima, Ohio; and Rockford, Illinois.

Only 29.0 percent of homes in the New York-White Plain area were affordable to those with the area's median income of $67,400.  This was the 15th consecutive quarter that this MSA ranked last in affordability.  Other major metro area at the bottom of the affordability index included Honolulu and three California MSAs, San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City; Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine; and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale.

The least affordable small market was Ocean City, New Jersey where, with a median income of $70,100 only 47.5 percent of homes were deemed affordable.  It was followed by Laredo, Texas, San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, and Santa Cruz-Watsonville, California; and Brownsville-Harlingen, Texas.