Housing is a major expense for most American households. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development classifies households that spend more than 30 percent of their monthly household income on housing as "cost-burdened" households. When households spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing they are likely to find it challenging to have sufficient income to meet other basic needs (food, clothing, medical care, education, retirement savings, etc.).
Homeownership, while now a somewhat tarnished goal, has long been a part of the "American Dream." Owning a home is often the largest investment a family has and a high level of homeownership is believed to contribute to building stable communities and engaged citizens. It is nearly impossible to pick up a paper or listen to a newscast that doesn't reference the nation's foreclosure crisis. Most economists believe that the sharp drop in home values and the high levels of foreclosures contribute significantly to the weak economic recovery that began in 2008. People's real wealth has fallen, limiting their ability and desire to consume and undermining their faith in their economic future. In short, housing issues are central to many of the most important social, economic and political issues facing the country today.
There is both good and bad news about housing in the St. Croix Valley. On the one hand, home ownership tends to be higher in these counties than in their respective states. On the other, the relatively high price of homes in these counties has contributed to the fact that higher percentages of households in this area are classified as "cost-burdened." In addition, residential foreclosure rates in three of the five counties were greater than their respective state averages during the recent recession.