For many American workers, a median-priced home remains unaffordable even as home prices and interest rates have dropped over the past year.

Between 2008 and 2009, home prices rose or held steady in 90 out of the more than 200 metropolitan areas (43.5 percent), and the income needed to buy a median-price home declined in 193 metro areas (93.2 percent), according to Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America by the Center for Housing Policy.

Still, police officers, teachers, and janitors in many markets can’t afford to buy a median-priced home or rent a typical apartment.

On the rental side, the rent for a two-bedroom home rose in 89 percent of the markets studied. The rise in rents and the decline in mortgage costs, to some extent, reflect a continued shift in demand from homeownership to rental housing as families exit homeownership because of foreclosures and as renters wait for homeownership market to stabilize, said the Center. 

The latest edition of the study provides a snapshot of housing affordability by looking at the wages of more than 60 occupations compared with home prices and rents in more than 200 metropolitan areas.

This year’s report looks at the housing challenges facing workers in the green industries as well as more traditional jobs. Electrical engineering technicians were able to buy a median-priced home in 122 of the 208 homeownership markets studied, while environmental engineering technicians and HVAC mechanics in 118. However, insulation workers could afford to buy in 45 markets, while homes in 163 areas remained out of reach.

Looking at traditional workers, the study reports that police officers, who typically earn in the high $40,000s to mid-$50,000s, can affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment in all but 12 of the markets studied. However, they do make enough to qualify to purchase a median-priced home in 86 out of 208 markets. Buying a home is now affordable for police officers in 37 of the metro areas that had been unaffordable in 2008.

Retail sales people continue to be priced out of renting a two-bedroom apartment in every market studied.

Places with the highest increase in rents over the past year include Knoxville, Tenn.; Tucson, Ariz.; Charleston, S.C.; Bakersfield, Calif.; and Sarasota, Fla.

The markets with the highest median home prices were San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; Honolulu; Santa Ana, Calif.; and Santa Cruz, Calif. Places with the steepest drops in income needed to purchase a median-priced home include Atlantic, N.J., and several communities in Florida—Ocala, Fort Lauderdale, Port St. Lucie, and Cape Coral.

Center officials said the rising rents and declining homeownership costs are particularly noteworthy in Florida, where the income needed for homeownership dropped more than 20 percent in a dozen markets while two-bedroom rents rose an average 6 percent across all the markets examined in the state. That’s twice the median rent increase of the study as a whole.

For more from the Center for Housing Policy and its affiliate the National Housing Conference, visit .