UNC Center for Community Capital graduate research assistant Sofoklis Goulas was honored April 9 with a 2015 Impact Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School.
Goulas received the award for research on maintenance and home improvement spending among lower-income homeowners. He conducted the research in collaboration with Sarah F. Riley, the center’s senior research economist, as part of a long-term study of an innovative national affordable homeownership program, the Community Advantage Program (CAP).
“At the time the CAP program was initiated, concerns were expressed that low-income households might be unable or unwilling to spend enough on their homes to prevent rapid depreciation,” said Lutz Hendricks, Ph.D., Goulas’ Ph.D. program adviser. “The clear message of this paper is that these concerns are unfounded.”
The center’s CAP research sheds light on how homeownership contributes to economic mobility and the many economic and societal benefits it provides. Critics of affordable homeownership programs and policies have questioned the financial ability of low-income home owners to maintain their property. Research by Riley and Goulas found that many low-income homeowners purchase relatively new properties, and that a majority do not live in low-income neighborhoods.
In addition, the research team found that the expenditures of lower-income households are somewhat less than the average for all U.S. homeowners, but their spending on maintenance and improvements is comparable to households with similar types of homes and other household characteristics. In Goulas’ study, home maintenance and improvement spending positively relates to house price appreciation, with an annual real gain of 1 percent attributable to such investment.
Goulas is an economist pursuing a Ph.D. in economics at UNC. Prior to his doctoral studies, he earned a Master of Science degree in finance and economics from Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom with the thesis, Monetary Policy under Asymmetric Information in the Credit Market. He topped his Bachelor of Science cohort at the University of Piraeus in Greece in 2010.
Goulas applies his background in finance to conduct research on real estate-related investment decisions. His work at the center focuses on the determinant factors of the rate of return on housing investment and how homeowners’ decisions affect house price appreciation.
Before joining the center, Goulas held a teaching assistant position in the Department of Economics at UNC and a research trainee position at Bank of Greece’s Special Research Division.