Women and minorities will play a larger role in housing's future, according to the 2004 State of the Nation's housing report, released by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, a center for information and research on housing in the United States. Women's expanded role in housing markets is a result of the steady rise in the numbers of dual-earner married couples and single-female households over the past 20 years. While women make up an increasing share of middle-income households, they are over-represented in the lowest income category. At the same time, immigration is reshaping the racial and ethnic composition and age distribution of the population in the United States.
"Largely as a result of immigration, minorities accounted for 27 percent of households in 2003 and will contribute at least two-thirds of net household growth in the coming decades," stated Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of the Joint Center.
In the longer run, the housing industry is well positioned for another strong decade. New Joint Center projections suggest household growth between 2005 and 2015 will be at least 10 percent higher than previously projected, bringing the total increase to more than 13 million households.
"As strong as housing construction has been in the recent past, demographic factors will propel housing production even higher during the next 10 years," explained Eric Belsky, executive director of the Joint Center. "Given higher household formations, demand for second homes, and replacement of units lost from the stock, production should reach at least 18.5 million and could top 19.5 million if immigration remains at current levels."
Despite continued job losses, the lowest mortgage interest rates in over 45 years kept housing strong in 2003. Buyers took advantage of the low rates to push sales of existing single-family homes to 6.1 million units and of new single-family homes to 1.1 million units. Low rates also led to record mortgage refinancings of $2.4 trillion, including an estimated $139 billion of cash-out refinance activity.
"While home prices have grown well ahead of inflation, in most areas, they have not outpaced income growth. However, the run-up in home prices is contributing to housing affordability pressures and fueling concerns that at least some markets may be overheated," noted Retsinas.
Even at the peak of the full-employment economy of the late 1990s, housing problems in the nation did not ease and some have worsened.
"While two-thirds of Americans are well-housed, the remaining third have significant housing problems and many struggle to meet other basic needs while still managing to keep a roof over their heads," concluded Retsinas.
Additionally, although housing production is projected to increase in the coming years, other data from the new report still points to persistent disparities in housing supply.
"According to the report, 1.3 million apartments in two- to four-unit buildings were lost from 1992 to 2001, while at the same time only 450,000 were built," said G. Allan Kingston, chairman of the National Housing Conference, which is a sponsor of the report, and president and CEO of Century Housing.
"Ultimately, ensuring the production and preservation of affordable housing through targeted policies and incentives at the state, local and national levels, are of increasing importance since affordable housing helps to promote family stability, creates positive child outcomes and is linked to success in the job market."
To view the Harvard report, visit www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/son2004.pdf.