Staff Reports
How Mortgage Finance Affects the Urban Landscape
February 2015 Number 713
JEL classification: G21, R31, R21

Authors: Sewin Chan, Andrew Haughwout, and Joseph Tracy

This chapter considers the structure of mortgage finance in the U.S., and its role in shaping patterns of homeownership, the nature of the housing stock, and the organization of residential activity. We start by providing some background on the design features of mortgage contracts that distinguish them from other loans, and that have important implications for issues presented in the rest of the chapter. We then explain how mortgage finance interacts with public policy, particularly tax policy, to influence a household’s decision to own or rent, and how shifts in the demand for owner-occupied housing are translated into housing prices and quantities, given the unusual nature of housing supply. We consider the distribution of mortgage credit in terms of access and price, by race, ethnicity, income, and over the lifecycle, with particular attention to the role of recent innovations such as non-prime mortgage securitization and reverse mortgages. The extent of negative equity has been unprecedented in the past decade, and we discuss its impact on strategic default, housing turnover, and housing investment. We describe spatial patterns in foreclosure and summarize the evidence for foreclosure spillovers in urban neighborhoods. Finally, we offer some thoughts on future innovations in mortgage finance.

Available only in PDF pdf 85 pages / 1,256 kb
Author disclosure statement(s)
For a published version of this report, see Sewin Chan, Andrew Haughwout, and Joseph Tracy, "How Mortgage Finance Affects the Urban Landscape," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics 5 (2015): 987-1045.
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