Exterior of houseHomeownership has long been a central pillar of financial security for American families. While considerable debate exists about the factors that influence households’ tenure decisions and the role(s) of housing wealth in household portfolios, homeownership’s inclusion in the American Dream reflects its close association with wealth creation and residential stability. However, a decade after the start of the foreclosure crisis, important questions remain about whether the experiences of the last 10 years have changed anything fundamental in U.S. households’ reliance on homeownership as a vehicle for financial security or in their openness to alternative forms of tenure that combine aspects of owning and renting.

Additionally, emerging issues raise important questions about the future role(s) of homeownership and other forms of tenure in the lives of American families. What barriers currently limit households’ access to homeownership or to other tenure options that offer greater security of tenure and opportunities for wealth generation? How have technological innovation, urban restructuring, growing income inequality, or other recent trends affected tenure outcomes? How will aging baby boomers manage their home equity, and what role will it play in their decisions about how and where to live? What are the long-term consequences of foreclosure and the loss of wealth for affected households? And, what are the implications of these and other questions for housing policy?

To better understand these issues, Fannie Mae and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies hosted a symposium at the Harvard Kennedy School in March 2019 which examined the evolving relationship between tenure choice, financial security, and residential stability.

Scroll down to see papers from the symposium, which are being added periodically, and to watch video from the event (each panel features introductory remarks from the Panel Chair, three paper presentations with a discussant, and a panel conversation). 

Panel 1: Homeownership and Wealth

Panel Chair: Ray Boshara (Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis)

The Financial Returns to Homeownership: Assessing the Relative Importance of Capital Gains and Imputed Rental Income in Different Neighborhood Contexts

Authors: Christopher Herbert, Hyojung Lee, Daniel McCue, and Alexander Hermann (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)

Discussant: Laurie Goodman (Urban Institute)

Toward a Holistic Approach to Wealth Formation for Lower-Income Households

Author: Patricia A. McCoy (Boston College)

Discussant: Brian McCabe (Georgetown University)

Building Wealth Through Homeownership: A Comparative Study of MHP’s ONE Mortgage Program and FHA

Authors: Elliot Schmiedl and Jake Interrante (Massachusetts Housing Partnership)

Discussant: Roberto Quercia (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


Panel 2: Homeownership Sustainability 

Panel Chair: Michael LaCour-Little (Fannie Mae)


Long-Term Outcomes of FHA First-Time Homebuyers

Authors: Donghoon Lee (Federal Reserve Bank of New York) and Joseph Tracy (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas)

Discussant: Richard Green (University of Southern California)

The American Dream or Just an Illusion? Understanding Land Contract Trends in the Midwest Pre- and Post-Crisis

Authors: Ann Carpenter (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta), Taz George (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago), Lisa Nelson (Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland)

Discussant: Keith Ernst (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)

Wealth Accumulation and Mortgage Distress for Low-Income Homeowners

Authors: Jeffrey Zabel and Allison Wainer (Tufts University)

Discussant: Alexandra Killewald (Harvard University)


Panel 3: Older Adults 

Panel Chair: Jennifer Molinsky (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)

House Prices and Retirement Saving Behavior

Authors: Patryk Babiarz and Velma Zahirovic-Herbert (University of Georgia)

Discussant: Geoffrey Sanzenbacher (Boston College)

Food Insecurity Among Older Adults: The Role of Mortgage Borrowing

Authors: Stephanie Moulton, Caezilia Loibl, Donald Haurin and Chrisse Edmunds (The Ohio State University)

Discussant: Sewin Chan (New York University)

Homeownership in Old Age and at the End of Life

Authors: Gary Engelhardt (Syracuse University) and Michael Eriksen (University of Cincinnati)


Panel 4: Mortgages 

Panel Chair: Jeff Lubell (Abt Associates)

The Potential for Shared Equity to Expand Access to Homeownership

Authors: Kristin L. Perkins, Jonathan Spader, and Christopher Herbert (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies) and Shannon Rieger (New York University)

Discussant: Brett Theodos (Urban Institute)

Mortgage Journeys: A Video Ethnography of the Home-Buying and Mortgage Process

Authors: Anna Jefferson and Hannah Thomas (Abt Associates)

Discussant: Max Besbris (Rice University) 

Institutions and Geographic Concentration in VA Mortgage Lending

Authors: Kerry Spitzer (Baystate Health) and Lauren Lambie-Hanson (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)

Discussant: Karen Pence (Federal Reserve Board of Governors)


Panel 5: Special Populations 

Panel Chair: Katherine O’Regan (New York University)

Tenure and Location Choice Among Hispanic Households

Author: Rocio Sanchez-Moyano (University of California, Berkeley)

Discussant: Matthew Hall (Cornell University)

Do Mobile Homes Affect Wealth?: Analysis of a Cohort Entering Adulthood During the Mobile Home Boom

Authors: Esther Sullivan (University of Colorado Denver) and Brian L. Levy (Harvard University)

Discussant: Donald Haurin (The Ohio State University)

Homeownership Experiences Following Criminal Justice Contact

Author: Brielle Bryan (Rice University)

Discussant: Lauren Lambie-Hanson (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia)