A housing recovery, but not for all Americans

Jun 28, 2013

Driven by rising home prices and growing demand, the U.S. housing recovery is well underway, concludes The State of the Nation's Housing report released today by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. While still at historically low levels, housing construction has finally turned the corner, giving the economy a much-needed boost. But even as the recovery gains momentum, millions of homeowners are still delinquent on their mortgages or owe more than their homes are worth, and severe housing cost burdens have set a new record.

Driven by an increase of 1.1 million renter households, last year marked the second consecutive year of double-digit percentage increases in multifamily construction. But the flip side of the strong rental market was the continued slide in homeownership rates. "Even as historically low interest rates have helped make the monthly cost of owning a home more favorable than any time in the past 40 years, the national homeownership rate fell for the eighth straight year in 2012," says Eric S. Belsky, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. "The drop was especially pronounced for 25–54 year olds, whose homeownership rates were at their lowest point since recordkeeping began in 1976."

"Tight credit is limiting the ability of would-be homebuyers to take advantage of today's affordable conditions and likely discouraging many from even trying," says Chris Herbert, Director of Research at the Joint Center for Housing Studies. "At issue is whether, and at what cost, mortgage financing will be available to borrowers across a broad spectrum of incomes, wealth, and credit histories moving forward."

And while the recovery is good news for many, the number of Americans shelling out half or more of their incomes on is at an all-time high. At last count, 20.6 million households were shouldering such severely burdens, including nearly seven out of ten households with annual incomes of less than $15,000 (roughly equivalent to year-round employment at the minimum wage). But, the report notes, even as the need has never been greater, federal budget sequestration will pare down the number of households receiving rental housing assistance.

"With rising home prices helping to revive household balance sheets and expanding residential construction adding to job growth, the housing sector is finally providing a much needed boost to the economy," says Belsky. "But long-term vacancies are at elevated levels in a number of places, millions of owners are still struggling to make their mortgage payments, and credit conditions for homebuyers remain extremely tight. It will take time for these problems to subside. Given the profoundly positive impact that decent and affordable housing can have on the lives of individuals, families, and entire communities, efforts to address these urgent concerns as well as longstanding housing affordability challenges should be among the nation's highest priorities."

The State of the Nation's Housing, released annually by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, provides a periodic assessment of the nation's housing outlook and summarizes important trends in the economics and demographics of housing. The report continues to earn national recognition as an authoritative source of information regularly utilized by housing researchers, industry analysts, policy makers, and the business community.

Explore further: Just how stressed are we when it comes to housing affordability?

More information: www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/state_nations_housing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sharing = Stealing: Busting a copyright myth

Apr 11, 2014

Consumers copy and share digital files. This has been blamed for a potentially catastrophic decline in certain markets. But why do consumers copy? And is it as economically harmful as often thought?

How widespread is tax evasion?

Apr 10, 2014

Tax evasion is widely assumed to be an eternal problem for governments—but how widespread is it? For the first time, a new study, co-authored by an MIT professor, has put a cost on a particular kind of tax evasion, known ...

China looks to science and technology to fuel its economy

Apr 10, 2014

Maintaining stability in the face of rapid change and growth, and proactively partaking in cooperative global ties in science and technology fields will be key in helping China become an innovation-based economy, according ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Online reviews: When do negative opinions boost sales?

When purchasing items online, reading customer reviews is a convenient way to get a real-world account of other people's opinions of the product. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, negative review ...

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...