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Area workers use 50% of income on housing

A file photo of a home for sale

A file photo of a home for sale on Carman Street in Patchogue. (Feb. 13, 2011) Credit: Kathy Kmonicek

More Long Island and metropolitan area workers used half their income or more for housing, despite declines in home sale prices, according to a national study to be released Thursday.

The nonprofit Center for Housing Policy said this "severe burden" was felt locally by nearly 1 out of every 3 working households in 2009, or 32 percent compared with 30 percent in 2008. That equates to almost 850,000 out of 2.6 million working households in the metropolitan area, which besides Long Island also covers parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, data show.

Of the 46.23 million working households in the nation, 1 out of 4 had a severe burden in 2009, up from 22.1 percent in 2008, the center said.

That was largely due to workers making less or seeing their hours cut, especially renters, the study said. Nationally, the median household income for homeowners in 2009 was $42,178, a 4 percent drop from 2008, it said. But for renters over the same period, the median of $29,988 was a 5 percent drop, the study said.

On Long Island, real estate agents said the rental market has gotten hotter as home sales have waned. One reason: Some baby boomers who want to downsize are heading for apartments, agents and housing experts said. Also, they said, many Long Islanders can't get mortgages or aren't sure whether the housing market has hit bottom.

A year ago, Long Island's rental prices were down, but prices are now "fair market," said Wendy Sanders, the Long Island managing director for EllimanRentals, part of the new focus on rental at Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

"I have people looking for apartments three months out because they know how tight the market is now," she said.

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