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Why buying a house in the US is so hard right now

Charting America’s homeownership problem.

Adam Freelander is a story editor and producer on the Vox video team, covering the US. Before joining Vox in 2018, he worked as a senior video producer at Quartz covering culture and politics, and worked on the video desk at the New York Times.

Homeownership in the US is basically synonymous with the idea of the American Dream. Owning your own home, the story goes, confers both self-determination and security — instead of paying a landlord, you own a growing asset that will form the base of your wealth. Homeownership is ingrained in US society; the majority of American adults are homeowners.

But somewhere along the line, something changed. Homeownership has been way less accessible to millennials and Gen Z than it was to their parents, in part because of dwindling housing supply. But even within that generational disparity, 2023 was a uniquely bad year to try to become a new homeowner. Watch the video above to see exactly how bad, and why.

The US Federal Reserve’s economic data was the basis for a lot of the charts in this video. Here are median home prices, the homeowner vacancy rate, and mortgage rates. The US Census provided historical median income data. The Urban Institute publishes a monthly housing chartbook, which is where we got some of the data on “price tiers” in active housing listings. (That data originally came from realtor.com.) And Zillow’s “affordability index” comes from this dashboard. (In the time since we finished this video, the affordability index has gotten even higher.)

This video is presented by Secret. Secret doesn’t have a say in our editorial decisions, but they make videos like this possible.

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