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Author(s): Thaden, Emily and Greg Rosenberg
Publication Date: October 2010
6 pages; Inventory ID LLA101002; English
The foreclosure crisis and its impact on the U.S. economy seem far from abating as mortgage delinquencies and foreclosure filings continue to climb. According to RealtyTrac, a total of 2.8 million properties had foreclosure filings during 2009, or one out of every 45 residences. That foreclosure rate was 21 percent higher than in 2008 and 120 percent higher than in 2007. Maintaining home ownership has proven to be a tenuous, if not impossible, proposition for many homeowners.
Some researchers, policy makers, and advocates are questioning whether conventional, market-oriented home ownership is the best form of housing for low-income households and communities. While others continue to extol the many benefits of home ownership, they question the way it is structured and suggest that alternative models of resale-restricted, owner-occupied housing may help low-income homeowners keep their homes more successfully.
Research on one of these alternative models, the community land trust (CLT), found delinquencies and foreclosures to be far lower among the owners of CLT homes than the owners of unrestricted, market-rate homes during the market downturn of 2007–2009. This article presents these findings and examines aspects of CLTs that may help to explain the sustainability and success of CLT home ownership.
CLTs provide homeowners with pre-purchase and post-purchase stewardship services to protect them from high-cost or predatory mortgage lending. CLTs also intervene to cure delinquencies and prevent foreclosures. In exchange, homeowners accept limitations on the resale price and the equity they may remove from their homes. Through this arrangement, households unable to afford market-rate homes are able to realize most of the financial and social benefits of home ownership, while CLTs are able to maintain affordability of their homes for future buyers.Reevaluating Low-Income and Minority Home OwnershipCross-sectional investigations have found that home ownership is the most robust explanatory factor of wealth in low-income and minority households. Home equity made up 56 percent of the wealth in households within the bottom quintile on income in 2000 relative to 32 percent for all households (Herbert and Belsky 2008). Before the housing market crisis, home equity accounted for approximately 62 percent of wealth for African-Americans and 51 percent for Hispanics, but only 44 percent for whites (McCarthy, Van Zandt, and Rohe 2001).
The financial benefits of home ownership may only be realized if low-income households are able to enter and sustain it. Longer durations of tenure greatly increase the likelihood of financial returns. When studies have examined home ownership over time, they find that low-income households take longer to enter owner-occupied housing and are more likely to return to renting; indeed, roughly half of low-income households exit home ownership within five years of purchase (e.g., Reid 2005).
Risk factors associated with losing one’s home are more common among low-income and minority homeowners. They are more likely to obtain high-risk loans for purchase and refinance, and they are more vulnerable to trigger events, such as unemployment or health issues, which are associated with higher incidents of delinquencies and foreclosures (Immergluck 2009). Almost half of low-income households are severely cost-burdened by their housing expenses (Joint Center for Housing Studies 2008). Length of tenure, loan terms, affordability, and trigger events may impact sustaining home ownership and affect the likelihood that low-income and minority homeowners will accumulate wealth or debt.
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