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Washington, D.C. – UNC Center for Community Capital Executive Director Janneke will debunk some common misconceptions about low-income homeownership during a panel discussion today (May 22) at a national gathering of policymakers, practicing mortgage capital experts and academics.

“The foreclosure crisis has given rise to debate over the financial merits of homeownership, especially for families of modest means,” Ratcliffe said at the conference, Are We Becoming A Nation of Renters?, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Program on America and the Economy with the Comparative Urban Studies Project. “Unfortunately, much of the debate is poorly informed or based on theory or simulation,” Ratcliffe said.

The center’s long-term study of nearly 50,000 low- and moderate-income homeowners before, during and after the foreclosure crisis confirms that low-income Americans can be successful homeowners and points to the economic benefits homeownership provides, she said.

Among the key findings that countered common misconceptions, she said:

  • Homeownership provided a greater economic cushion for lower‐income families than renting.
  • Homeownership does not crowd out other investments; comparable renters did not build alternative, diversified investment portfolios.
  • Equity gains did not lead to excessive borrowing.
  • Renting is not necessarily a cheaper option than buying a home.
  • Even with minimal assets, qualified households with properly underwritten mortgages can successfully make the transition to homeownership.

The findings are summarized in a research brief, “Setting the Record Straight on
Homeownership,” available online at

Ratcliffe is an expert on mortgage finance and co-author of Regaining the Dream: How to Renew the Promise of Homeownership for America’s Working Families. Written with co-authors Roberto G. Quercia, center director, and Allison Freeman, senior research associate, the new book examines the real causes of the foreclosure crisis and describes research-based strategies for how to rebuild 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): Default, Bankruptcy, & Foreclosure, Impacts of Homeownership
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