Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ny Fed: The Homeownership Gap

by Bill McBride on 12/24/2009 06:52:00 PM

From NY Fed economists Andrew Haughwout, Richard Peach, and Joseph Tracy: The Homeownership Gap

The authors argue that the official homeownership rate from the Census Bureau is overstated in the sense that owners with significant negative equity act more like renters. The authors further argue that the official homeownership rate will probably follow the homeownership gap to lower levels.

Homeownership Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The homeownership rate was 67.6% in Q3 2009, about the same level as Q2 2000.

Note: graph starts at 60% to better show the change.

The second graph shows the author's calculations of the homeownership gap (closer to 63%). This is a rough estimate, but does suggest the homeownership rate might fall significantly.

Homeownership Gap From the conclusions:

The current severe house price cycle, combined with borrowers who had little or no equity at origination of their mortgages, has led to a dramatic rise in homeowners with negative equity and, therefore, a large gap between the measured and effective homeownership rates. In some of the worst hit metropolitan areas, effective homeownership rates are 25 to 45 percentage points below the measured rate. This situation is likely to put downward pressure on future homeownership rates, and has potentially important implications for the maintenance of the housing stock, the stability of neighborhoods, and future household saving behavior.
A significant increase in the saving rate will hold down the growth of household consumption. And a falling homeownership rate has significant implications for homebuilders and construction employment.

From a post I wrote a few months ago: The Impact of the Declining Homeownership Rate
[The] increase in the homeownership rate, from 1995 through 2005, meant the homebuilders had the wind to their backs. Instead of 800K of new owner demand per year (plus replacement of demolished units, and second home buying), the homebuilders saw an additional 500K of new owner demand during the period 1995 to 2005. This doesn't include the extra demand from speculative buying. Some of this demand was satisfied by condo conversions and owner built units, but the builders definitely benefited from the increase in homeownership rate.

Looking ahead, if the homeownership rate stays steady, the demand for net additional homeowner occupied units would fall back to 800K or so per year (assuming steady population growth and persons per household). However the homeownership rate is declining, and this is now a headwind for the builders.

It appears the rate is declining at about 0.5% per year. This means the net demand for owner occupied units would be 833K minus about 500K per year or about 333K per year - about 25% of the net demand for owner occupied units for the period 1995 to 2005. (Not including replacing demolished units and 2nd home buying).

Although we can't compare this number directly to new home sales (because of 2nd home buying, replacement of demolished units, and other factors) this does suggest new home sales will probably remain at a low level until the homeownership rate stops declining.
If the Fed economists are correct, this has significant implications for construction employment and household construction, in addition to public policy.

Note: the authors provide some estimates of the "homeownership gap" for a few key cities: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Miami.

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