- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003

Most Americans working in certain community-oriented jobs don’t earn enough to qualify for homeownership, according to a study released by affordable housing advocates yesterday.The National Housing Conference said the average police officer, elementary school teacher, licensed practical nurse, janitor and retail salesman fail to pull in enough money to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. The study titled, “Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America” reviewed 60 metropolitan areas, including Washington, and found that janitors and retail salesmen were unable to qualify for a mortgage in all of them. Teachers, meanwhile could afford a mortgage in 28 of the least-expensive areas, police officers qualified in 32, and practical nurses qualified in three.The study’s authors found that the median-priced house in the United States cost $157,000. Affordability was based on whether a person could set aside 30 percent of his income toward housing. The NHC used figures from 2001, the most recent year comprehensive data was available. Its salary figures were based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.”These are families that arevaluable to the community,” Ann Schnare, chairman of the Center for Housing Policy, told reporters yesterday. “Increasingly, the lack of affordable housing is being recognized as a real detriment to local communities.”In the Washington area, the median house cost $184,000, according to the NHC. All five professions fall short of the 30 percent of annual income needed to afford such a home. Nurses, janitors and salespeople did not make enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment, which cost an average of $904 per month. Lawsuits to get a lookD.C. planners said they will look at lawsuits filed against Millennium Partners as part of their review of candidates vying for the right to build on the old convention center site.The multimillion-dollar lawsuits accuse Millennium of failing to properly notify residents of a toxic mold problem at Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, a high-priced condominium complex in the District’s West End, which it manages.Millennium is part of a development team competing to build a large, mixed-use complex at the 10.5-acre site of the old convention center. The District has called for at least 1,000 units of housing, 300,000 square feet of retail, some office space, concert halls and a new library.As part of the District’s criteria for the project, teams wishing to develop the site must provide a “summary of all litigation … that has or may have a significant impact on the cash flow” of the companies involved.Such a summary, as well as other detailed information about teams’ proposals, was due to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development today. Millennium said it would submit information on whatever the District required. It is not clear whether the lawsuits relating to mold would hurt Millennium’s revenue. Stephen Green, a special assistant in the planning office directly involved with the project, said the selection committee was aware of the lawsuits and would be taking them into consideration.”It’s something we’ll be talking to them about,” Mr. Green said. “It’s obviously something we’re interested in.”He cautioned that lawsuits are common in the real estate industry. “A lawsuit in and of itself is not a big concern,” he said. “Every building has its problems. One of the things you look for is whether there’s a pattern.”c Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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