Mapping Troubled Housing Markets

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On Tuesday, The Daily Beast ran my new Housing-Mortgage Stress Index. While the U.S. housing market saw a sharp drop in July and millions of homeowners remain underwater, housing market troubles vary significantly by metro region.

The Housing-Mortgage Stress Index shows the U.S. metros whose housing markets -- and homeowners -- face the highest levels of stress and danger of foreclosure and falling prices. The index, developed with my collaborator Charlotta Mellander, is based on three variables:

  • Negative equity -- percent of mortgages where owners owe more than their homes are worth.
  • Loan-to-value ratio -- total Mortgage Debt Outstanding divided by Total Property Value -- both from Core Logic.
  • Monthly mortgage cost-to-income ratio from the U.S. Census American Community Survey.

The index weights all three variables equally and covers 142 U.S. metros.


The first map above, prepared by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute based on data from Core Logic, shows the percentages of mortgages that are underwater across U.S. metros. Las Vegas tops the list with nearly three-quarters of all mortgages underwater. More than half of all mortgages are underwater in Stockton, Modesto, Vallejo-Fairfield, Bakersfield, and Riverside, California; Port St. Lucie, Orlando, Cape Coral, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Phoenix, and Reno. In Miami, Tampa, and Detroit, more than 45 percent of all mortgages are underwater.


The second map shows the performance of U.S. metros on the overall Housing-Mortgage Stress Index. The most troubled metros are located primarily in California, Florida, and Nevada. Nine of the top 20 troubled metros - including all five of the top five - are located in California (Stockton, Modesto, Vallejo-Fairfield, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Bakersfield-Delano, along with Fresno, Visalia-Porterville, Sacramento, and Salinas). The six Florida metros on the list are Miami, Orlando, Port St. Lucie, Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Lakeland-Winter Haven, and Palm Bay-Melbourne. Rounding out the top 20 metros are Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Phoenix; Provo, Utah; and Greely, Colorado.

Among large metros -- those with more than 1 million people -- Tampa, Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego, Jacksonville, Washington, D.C., Virginia Beach, Chicago, and L.A. show high levels of housing-mortgage stress, along with the five noted above -- Riverside, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Miami.

There is still a great deal of localized stress in the U.S. housing market, and recovery is likely to take a lot longer than most people anticipate.

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Richard Florida is Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. See his most recent writing at The Atlantic Cities. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He is founder of the Creative Class Group.

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