Homeownership, Geographic Mobility and Mortgage Structure

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Mnasri, Ayman
Homeownership , Default , Mobility
This thesis studies the impact of geographic mobility on the decision of a household to whether to buy or to rent a house, and sheds light on the efficiency of mortgage default prevention policies. The first chapter provides an introduction and an overview of the ongoing policy debates on homeownership and mortgage terms. In the second and third chapters, I study the housing tenure decision in the context of a life cycle model with uninsurable individual income risk, plausibly calibrated to match key features of the U.S. housing market. I find that the relatively low ownership rate of young households is mainly explained by their high geographic mobility. Downpayment constraints have minor quantitative implications on ownership rates, except for old households. I also find that idiosyncratic earnings uncertainty has a significant impact on ownership rates. Based on these results, I argue that the long term increase in ownership rates observed over the period 1993-2009 was not necessarily due to mortgage market innovations and the relaxation of downpayment requirements, as is often argued. Instead, it was simply an implication of U.S. demographic evolution, most notably the decline in interstate migration and, less importantly, population aging. Finally, in Chapter 4, I study the impact of the relaxation of downpayment requirement on homeownership and default risk. Given its quantitative success in matching the U.S. homeownership curve, my model represents a reasonable benchmark to asses the efficiency of mortgage default prevention policies. I find that both income and mobility are the main trigger factors for default decisions. In fact, households with a higher mobility (ie. young households) rate are more likely to default. According to the welfare analysis, I suggest that policymakers include a minimum downpayment requirement of 9.5% in the new definition of the Qualified Residential Mortgage. This number should, however, be viewed with some caution, since I focus on a steady state economy, in which house prices are constant. In fact, the house price represents an important factor influencing the default rate. Potentially, the optimal minimum downpayment requirement should be set at higher value than 9.5%.
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