Top five barriers to home ownership

Customers wait in line at Mugshot Coffeehouse in Canyon Country on Friday, March 24, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

By Marty Kovacs

Whatever happened to the commitment of homeownership as a national priority?

Despite the addition of about 11.8 million households between 2006 and 2016, there are roughly 1 million fewer homeowners today than a decade ago.

“The decline and stagnation in the homeownership rate is a trend that’s pointing in the wrong direction, and must be reversed given the many benefits of homeownership to individuals, communities, and the nation’s economy,” said William E. Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors, at a recent day-long Sustainable Homeownership Conference at the University of California, Berkeley.

A white paper commissioned by NAR explored main barriers that prevent people from buying homes. Here are five key findings from that paper, titled: “Hurdles to Homeownership: Understanding the Barriers.”

• Post-Foreclosure Stress Disorder — Among the most vexing challenges is the so-called “post-foreclosure stress disorder,” which continues to have an impact on consumers’ financial decision-making, said Ken Rosen, chair of the Berkeley Hass Real Estate Group.

The psychological effect of jobs and homes lost during the Great Recession remains vivid for many Americans, especially young adults who experienced the hardships their families went through. While most Americans continue to have positive feelings about homeownership, Rosen said targeted programs addressing financial literacy and mortgage financing could help return-buyers and those who still have anxieties and negative biases about owning.

• Restricted Mortgage Availability — Creditworthy buyers are still not getting approved at the rate they were in 2003, prior to the period of excessively lax lending standards. Rules now remain too tight.

• Student Loan Debt Burden — Because of onerous debt, young adults still find it difficult to save money for a down payment, qualify for a mortgage, and afford mortgage payments, especially in pricey areas like the Santa Clarita Valley and other parts of California.

• Single-Family Housing Affordability — Lack of inventory, higher home prices, and investors putting a squeeze on supply levels combine to make homes less affordable.

• Single-Family Housing Supply Shortages — Single-family home construction decreased dramatically during the recession and is still not keeping up with demand.

“The insufficient level of homebuilding has created a cumulative deficit of nearly 3.7 million new homes over the last eight years,” Rosen said.

In order to make homeownership once again an affordable and realistic opportunity for young households, policy changes will be necessary to reduce the growth in college tuition costs, minimize borrowing costs, diminish the incidence of delinquency, and make repayment less burdensome, according to the white paper.

Marty Kovacs is the 2017 Chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the 9,600-member Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.

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