Saturday, March 19, 2011

Housing-vacancy rates high in outlying Valley

Metro Phoenix population and housing data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows which cities in the region experienced the most overbuilding during the mid-decade boom. It also shows which areas have the lowest vacancy rates or number of vacant homes.

Many of the region's edge communities experienced big increases in population, but homebuilding still outpaced new residents. Buckeye's population climbed by 678 percent, but the city's number of housing units climbed even more. So now, it has a 21 percent vacancy rate.

Some other Phoenix-area cities with higher-than-average housing vacancies: Apache Junction, 31 percent; Scottsdale, 18.3 percent; and Surprise, 17.7 percent.

Arizona's overall housing-vacancy rate is 15.6 percent.

Three southeast Valley communities posted lower-than-average housing vacancies: Tempe, 10.2 percent; Chandler, 7.9 percent; and Gilbert, 7.4 percent.

Phoenix's housing-vacancy rate is 12.8 percent.

Some Arizona cities with many second-home owners, including Scottsdale and Apache Junction, have housing vacancies that look high to market watchers. Data to be released later this year for Arizona will give those second-home hubs better counts.

More than half underwater

As many as 51 percent of Arizona homeowners are underwater, according to new data from CoreLogic. Nevada has the highest rate of homeowners owing more than their house is worth, at 65 percent. Florida is right behind Arizona, with 47 percent of its homeowners dealing with negative equity.

The national rate for negative equity is 23 percent.

Arizona's rate has actually dropped as more homeowners have lost houses to foreclosure. That means fewer people owe more on a mortgage than their house is worth.

Refinancing aid

The federal Home Affordable Refinancing Program, better known as HARP, has been extended for another year. The program was due to expire at the end of June but was extended despite congressional debates on killing the Home Affordable Modification Program because it has helped fewer than expected.

HARP helps homeowners who owe more than their house is worth to refinance but is limited to 125 percent loan-to-value, so many prospective borrowers in metro Phoenix don't qualify.

by Catherine Reagor The Arizona Republic Mar. 16, 2011 12:00 AM

Housing-vacancy rates high in outlying Valley

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