Home mortgage payments take up a higher share of income in Los Angeles than anywhere else in the country, according to a new study.
The real estate website Zillow found Angelenos making the city's median income would have to put 47 percent of their earnings toward mortgage payments to own a home. That came as no surprise to area lenders and real estate experts.
"The reality is that the homebuyers walk in realizing they can’t afford a home," said Tim Johnson, CEO of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors.
Los Angeles was followed by San Francisco (40 percent) and San Diego and San Jose (tied at 39 percent).
The rule of thumb has been that homebuyers spend no more than a third of their income on housing. More than that means it's harder to get a loan.
"They’re not going to qualify for a loan — in most instances, a traditional loan — if their payment is half of their income, even with historically low interest rates," Johnson said.
Programs provided by cities and counties can help homebuyers reduce their mortgage payments by offering assistance with the down payment.
Sylvia Delgadillo has overseen such a program for first-time homebuyers and their lenders in Los Angeles County since 2009. The Home Ownership Program lends up to $60,000 for a down payment and closing costs.
She's watched affordability worsen since the foreclosure crisis when home prices were much lower and monthly payments took up a smaller share of income.
Back in 2009, Delgadillo said, homeowners could spend as little as 35 percent of income to afford a home. "Now we don't see that anymore,"she said.
Delgadillo said there are more households needing help than her program can handle. It served 61 families this past fiscal year. Next year the budget allows for just 46 families.
The larger problem is there’s simply not enough homes for the population, Delgadillo said. Last year, the state grew by 335,000 people but only added 89,000 housing units.