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Here's why teachers, first responders might not be able to afford living in Charlotte

Charlotte home prices are high and inventory is low again, data released for February showed.
Charlotte home prices are high and inventory is low again, data released for February showed.

Teachers, restaurant workers and first responders such as police officers and firefighters are likely having a tough time finding a house to buy in Charlotte.

That's according to a new analysis from home-listing site Trulia, which compares the average listing prices for houses in U.S. cities with the average wage different workers in each city make. Using the assumption that housing payments shouldn't take up more than 31 percent of income, Trulia reaches a dispiriting conclusion.

"The news is discouraging. Workers in these roles are finding it even harder to live in the communities they serve," the report said. The share of houses affordable to teachers decreased or was flat in 85 of the 93 largest metro areas compared to last year.

The same dynamics that have driven up prices across the nation are impacting Charlotte's housing market: strong demand and tight supply. The median price of a home sold in the Charlotte region jumped 13 percent in February, compared to the same month a year earlier, hitting $227,000. At the same time, the number of houses on the market plunged 18 percent, meaning there's even less supply and prices are likely to go higher.

Those dynamics are especially tough for teachers, restaurant workers and first responders in Charlotte. With a median income of $43,000, only 18 percent of home listings are affordable to the average first responder.

Teachers fared slightly better in the Trulia analysis: With a median income of $47,260, the average teacher can afford almost 22 percent of houses listed for sale in Charlotte. Restaurant workers fared the worst, by a large margin: Just 5.3 percent of home listings are affordable to them, with median wages of $20,542.

All three groups faced a sharp decline in the percentage of houses listed that they can afford: Last year, first responders in Charlotte could afford 29 percent, teachers could afford 32 percent and restaurant workers could afford 7 percent of houses.

On the other end of the income spectrum, doctors (median wage: $208,000) and computer programmers ($95,610) are doing pretty well, able to afford 95 percent and 73 percent of available houses this year, respectively.

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The Trulia analysis makes some assumptions that could make it appear harder — or easier — to purchase a home than it really is for workers in Charlotte, of course. It looks at single-income households, so the study doesn't take into account the effect of multiple earners on affordability.

For example, two teachers would have roughly the same income as the median programmer in Charlotte, so they would be able to afford about three-quarters of houses listed for sale. Two restaurant workers would have almost the same income as one teacher, substantially increasing their buying power.

But the Trulia study also assumed potential buyers would be able to afford a 20 percent down payment, which many people have difficulty saving for, because rent is rising as fast as for-sale housing prices. That means the percentage of homes affordable for workers in Charlotte could be substantially lower if they are putting less money down up front.

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