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Washington, D.C. – A long-term study of low-income homeowners before, during and after the foreclosure shows that homeowners fair better than renters in a crisis and build wealth that renters do not, UNC Center for Community Capital senior research associate Allison Freeman told a national audience today.

“The home is, in my opinion, one of the few ways low- and moderate-income families can build significant wealth over the long term,” Freeman said. “If we view homeownership as an asset-building strategy, our goal should be to help people get into homes and remain in them for the long term so they can realize these gains.”

Freeman’s remarks came during Assets @ 21: Lessons from the Past, Directions for the Future, the New America Foundation Symposium and Ideas Summit held in Washington, D.C. The invitation-only summit of practitioners, policymakers, researchers, advocates and funders celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Michael Sherraden’s book, Assets and the Poor. The book elevated the role assets play in promoting social development over the life course and catalyzed the emergence of the asset building field.

Freeman spoke during a panel discussion, “The Promise and Perils of Homeownership,” moderated by center executive director Janneke Ratcliffe and Carolina Reid from the Center for Responsible Lending

A long-term study of nearly 50,000 low- and moderate-income homeowners who received mortgages through a national Community Advantage Program (CAP) demonstrated that homeownership is an effective means for building wealth through forced savings.  However, fixed-rate mortgages with predictable monthly payments are crucial, as are loans that are carefully underwritten for homes that people can afford. Ownership will not work for the income poor, Freeman said, but can work well for those with steady incomes who are asset poor.

Freeman’s presentation and a paper on the subject is available online at

Freeman is co-author with Ratcliffe and center director Roberto G. Quercia of Regaining the Dream: How to Renew the Promise of Homeownership for America’s Working Families. The book reports on the results of the CAP borrowers to explain the real cause of the foreclosure crisis and outline research-based strategies for rebuilding a sustainable U.S. housing finance system.

Mortgage finance is a key area of study for the UNC Center for Community Capital, the leading center for research and policy analysis on the transformative power of capital on households and communities in the United States. The center is part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its in-depth analyses help policymakers, advocates and the private sector find sustainable ways to expand economic opportunity to more people, more effectively. For more information, visit or call (919) 843-2140.

Topics(s): Affordable Homeownership, Financial Inclusion, Impacts of Homeownership, Savings & Asset-Building
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