Affordable homeownership is generally available in most of Virginia, according to a recent report compiled by the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research and the Virginia Association of Realtors. The report divides Virginia into housing market regions and measures affordability based on percent of income required for owner-occupied homes.

Areas where the median housing price requires less than 25 percent of the median family income, as found in the Martinsville, Dan River, Southwest and South Central Virginia communities, rank as most affordable.

But regions like Northern Virginia-Fairfax and Dulles-Loudoun are out of reach for the average Virginian, based on report findings. Homeownership there becomes affordable when family income meets or exceeds median incomes for those areas, which are very high. Incomes elsewhere are typically much lower. An average family in Southside can expect to find affordable housing in Southside but the same income would make it difficult to find an affordable home in Northern Virginia.

One factor influencing affordability is that median house prices experienced double-digit increases from 2000 to 2003 in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville and the Greater Piedmont, outpacing median family incomes. However, two areas--Dan River and Martinsville--saw declines in median prices between 2002 and 2003.

"Despite much more rapid increases in housing prices than incomes, the median house sold remains affordable to the median family, within each market area," said Ted Koebel, professor in Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies and director of the Center for Housing Research. "Housing prices cannot continue to increase at these rates without affecting home affordability. A significant increase in interest rates could cause serious problems, especially in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Greater Piedmont, and Williamsburg market areas."

The Center for Housing Research's mission is to serve as an interdisciplinary study, research, and information resource on housing for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Consulting on housing issues with the General Assembly, federal, state and local agencies, nonprofit organizations, private industry, and other colleges and universities of the Commonwealth, the Center also plays a role in the state's housing policy and research network by addressing research needs. VCHR has published numerous reports on topics such as housing tenure and affordability; property tax relief; preservation of federally-assisted, low-income housing; a national survey of housing ordinances promoting affordable housing; a survey of private, unassisted housing; an international study of public-private housing using partnerships; rural housing; homeownership patterns; and employer assisted housing.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2004, the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech is comprised of two schools, the School of Architecture + Design and the School of Public and International Affairs, and includes programs in architecture, art and art history, building construction, public administration and policy, interior design, industrial design, landscape architecture, government and international affairs, and urban affairs and planning. All programs strive to promote an understanding of the complexity of our environment and ways to improve that environment through thoughtful teaching, research, and outreach. The college enrolls more than 2,200 students, offering 22 degrees programs taught by 130 faculty members.