Executive Director, Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition
Nationally renowned housing economist Christopher Mayer came to Charlotte Jan. 23 to talk about the benefits of homeownership
and discuss how federal, state and local policies can help expand the opportunities for more Americans to own their own home.
Dr. Mayer, a professor of Real Estate Finance & Economics at New York’s Columbia Business School, was in town to speak at the 2014 REBIC Forum, a gathering of real estate professionals, elected officials and community leaders held at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building. Some of the highlights of his remarks:
- He said the housing bubble was felt around the world, not just in the United States. Nations like Spain, Ireland and China saw similar run-ups in housing values, followed by even more devastating crashes.
- The homeownership rate in the U.S. peaked in 2004, but investors kept the bubble inflating for another three years afterward. Speculators, he said, are more to blame for the housing crash than home buyers.
- Very few underwater homeowners walked away from their homes during the crisis, he said. Most defaults were by housing market speculators and investors with no skin in the game.
- Home equity is the dominant source of personal wealth for older Americans, and the homeownership rate for Americans aged 65- 69 exceeds 86 percent.
- Home equity can ease the path to retirement, as well as help avoid an economic future in which taxpayers must subsidize the housing and health care costs of lower-income Americans.
- There is NO evidence that government policies helped cause the financial crisis, he claimed, citing evidence that more than 84% of subprime mortgages issued by lenders were not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act.
- Student loan debt represents one of the greatest challenges to today’s first-time home buyers, and is a growing crisis that our nation must begin to address.
- “We need to establish a path for responsible homeownership in America,” he said. “But government policies requiring high down payments are not the answer.”
- He also said the mortgage industry needs to become more innovative, rolling out tools like portable mortgages and hybrid ARMs. In addition, he said the government needed to reconsider whether the federal Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) was providing sufficient benefit to first-time buyers. He suggested that a federal tax credit for homebuyers may serve as a better tool to get middle-class Americans into their own homes.