Tampa Bay’s middle class can’t afford to be middle class

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For the third straight year, the Tampa Bay Region has earned a dismal D+ for the ability for middle-class residents to afford middle-class homes, according to a new study by Interest.com.

So what does that mean? It means a person making the median income in the Tampa Bay area, $45,880 a year, cannot afford the median-priced home, which in Tampa Bay is $156,000. Basically, the middle class can’t even afford to be the middle class. Ouch.

What makes this study even worse for the region is that Tampa Bay is the tenth worst out of the 25 metropolitan areas studied. That puts Tampa behind well-known money pits the likes of Las Angelas, San Diego, San Fransisco and New York.

While the overall affordability score for Tampa Bay has remained the same since 2012, there has been some improvement. The scores are based on where a region lies in comparison to a resident’s ability to purchase a median-priced home on a median salary. Right now Tampa Bay sits at 2.66 percent below what it needed to make that threshold, but last year that number was 4.47 percent.

The problem here isn’t with home prices, though. Tampa sits as one of the most affordable places to buy a home. The median price of just about $150,000 puts the most expensive city, San Fransisco, to shame. To buy an average home there one would have to pony up almost three-quarters of a million. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in home affordability when not considering income. Pittsburgh is the cheapest place to buy a home with average values at $143,690.

It’s all about income. Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Detroit are the only three cities studied with home prices cheaper than Tampa. Though all three of those cities passed, they weren’t top contenders for the most affordable. That honor went to Minneapolis, where home values soar to more than $200,000, but median income keeps up at more than $67,000 a year.

In contrast, Tampa’s median income is dead last in a list of 25 metro areas analyzed by the U.S. Census bureau. The median income for women is even worse, at just $36,773.

The take away? If you want an average home, you better have an above average job.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.