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Affordable housing

Woodland is one of the most affordable places in the state to own a home, according to a recent analysis from the national investment firm, SmartAsset.

SmartAsset ranked Woodland as the fourth most affordable city to own a home among 105 Washington cities with more than 5,000 people. Kelso ranked number 32 and Longview ranked 76. The most affordable city was West Richland, Wash. Ridgefield ranked number 10.

The study tallied home purchase costs, property taxes, insurance and mortgage payments over a five-year period, then compared the costs to household income in each community.

Average housing costs are actually more expensive in Woodland compared to those in Longview and Kelso, but because Woodland residents tend to make more money, they spend proportionally less of their income on owning a home.

In Woodland, homeowners pay an annual average of $1,822 on property taxes; $421 on homeowner’s insurance; and $8,064 on mortgage payments. Average closing costs for buying a home are about $6,641, according to the study.

However, the median household income in Woodland is $65,065, compared to Longview’s $37,827 and Kelso’s $33,492, according to the U.S. Census. Countywide, median household income is $46,571.

Realtors say Woodland’s status as a “bedroom community” makes the city comparatively more affordable, but that is likely to change as the housing market heats up.

“There’s not a lot of employment opportunities in Woodland, so most of those people are commuting to Kelso-Longview area or Vancouver area … or they’re telecommuters where income tends be a little higher,” said Sheri Evald, a Longview Realtor with Keller Williams.

June Jones, principal broker at Woodland Real Estate, said Woodland benefits from its location so close to Clark County and Portland.

“So we still have a lot of people whose incomes are based on larger areas and higher incomes and proximity to those services,” Jones said

In addition, homeowners in Woodland still benefit from comparatively lower property taxes because there are more older homes assessed at lower values, Jones said.

Permitting costs and electricity also tend to be cheaper in Cowlitz County, she added. Cowlitz PUD charges 7.09 cents per a kilowatt hour of electricity, compared to 8.16 cents per kilowatt-hour in Clark County.

Yet a shrinking housing supply could chip away at Woodland’s relative affordability. Homeowners from Kelso-Longview are increasingly looking south, and homebuyers from Vancouver-Portland are increasingly looking north.

“I think anything on the I-5 corridor right now is struggling with the same problem because people in Kelso-Longview that would typically just look there are stretching their boundaries,” Evald said.

Last month, there were 192 homes for sale in Cowlitz County — about half as many as in March 2015, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Services. The shortage of homes for sale has pushed up prices. In the first three months of the year, the median price for homes sold rose to $178,900, up almost $11,000 compared to same period last year, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Services.

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The Daily News, Longview, Wash.


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