A new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies examines lending patterns during the housing boom and current efforts to create a new mortgage market, in the wake of the housing bust. The report, Getting On the Right Track: Improving Low-Income and Minority Access to Mortgage Creditafter the Housing Bust,explores how changes to the housing finance system will affect future lending to lower-income and minority borrowers and communities, and what policies and programs will be needed to promote sustainable homeownership opportunities in these areas over time.
“Accomplishing these goals will not be easy or quick,” says William Apgar, senior scholar at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, former FHA Commissioner, and a primary author of the report. “Low-income and minority communities were among the hardest hit by the mortgage market meltdown. Since policymakers have failed to address longstanding issues — including persistent racial and ethnic discrimination and growing inequality in the distribution of income and wealth—these same households and neighborhoods may not fully benefit from the emerging housing recovery.“
Creating a responsible mortgage market, the report concludes, must start by developing liquidity that provides broad access to mortgage credit that borrowers understand and have the ability to repay. This means reducing the government’s outsized presence and encouraging the return of private mortgage capital. To ensure access to mortgage capital for low-wealth and low-income borrowers and communities, however, efforts must be made to ensure that private capital attends to these markets and to eliminate any vestiges of the discriminatory lending practices that played such a prominent role in the buildup to the recent crisis.
“The pendulum on access to credit has swung too far in the direction of hindering it,” says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the Joint Center. “While it will take time – perhaps years – to reform all aspects of the housing finance system that are in need of it, the path forward is coming into view. This report points the way toward an improved system that provides broad access, assures liquidity even in times of crisis, reengages private capital, and strengthens the federal role in anchoring the market while better protecting taxpayers and serving American homebuyers and homeowners.”