Discussion Paper

The Homeownership Gap Is Finally Closing


Abstract: The homeownership rate peaked at 69 percent in late 2004. By the summer of 2016, it had dropped below 63 percent?exactly where it was when the government started reporting these data back in 1965. The housing bust played a central role in this decline. We capture this effect through what we call the homeownership gap?the difference between the official homeownership rate and the ?effective? rate where only homeowners with positive equity in their house are counted. The effective rate takes into account that a borrower does not in an economic sense own the house if the mortgage debt is greater than the house?s value. In this post, we show that between 2005 and 2012, the effective rate fell well below, and put downward pressure on, the official rate. We also demonstrate that the increase in house prices and the exit of millions of homeowners through foreclosure has largely eliminated the gap between the official and effective homeownership rates.

Keywords: homeownership; negative equity; Mortgages;

JEL Classification: D1;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Liberty Street Economics

Publication Date: 2017-02-16

Number: 20170216