Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 24, 2014

Long-Term Homeownership Affordability

By David Reiss

Amnon Lehavi has posted Can the Resale Housing Market Be Split to Facilitate Long-Term Affordability? to SSRN.  The paper argues that

a comprehensive affordable housing policy requires the formal splitting of the homeownership market into (at least) two distinct segments: one designated for the general public and following a conventional pricing mechanism through free market supply and demand, and the other designated for eligible households and controlling both initial supply and subsequent resale of housing units through regulated affordability-oriented pricing mechanisms.

While regulation of the pricing of affordable housing units during their initial allocation is a standard feature of housing policy–whether such affordable units are produced by a public authority or a private developer–regulation of pricing upon resale to subsequent buyers has received less attention as a matter of both theory and practice, thus leaving a substantial gap in

design mechanisms aimed at promoting a sustainable affordable housing policy.(1)

This is not really a new argument, but the paper takes the position that existing efforts to regulate resales of affordable housing in the homeownership market can be scaled up significantly. The paper does not take on some of the bigger questions that this position implicates — for instance, should scarce homeownership dollars be spent on rental housing instead — but it does develop a concrete proposal:

This paper seeks to enrich policy design options by introducing two alternative cap-on-resale mechanisms for the affordable housing segment: “Mixed Indexed Cap” (MIC) and “Pure Indexed Cap” (PIC). It explains how such models could be utilized to attain a policy goal of promoting long-term social mobility, allowing multiple low- and modest-income households to engage in capital building by sequentially enjoying increments of appreciation of properties in the affordable housing segment.

In so doing, the paper addresses a series of challenges posed by the design of a cap-on-resale mechanism: Could such a mechanism ensure that the homeowner is granted a fair return upon resale, providing the owner with proper incentives to invest efficiently in the property during the tenure, while setting up a resale rate that would make the unit truly affordable for future homebuyers? (1)

New York Ciy has experimented with affordable homeownership and has not come up with an ideal solution to the problem of affordability upon resale. Given the renewed focus on affordable housing policy in NYC, this attention to affordable homeownership policy is most welcome.

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