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Right to Rent could change the nation's foreclosure crisis: CEPR

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In the wake of reform enacted to promote homeownership, analysts at the Center for Economic and Policy Research are saying that ownership may not be the smartest option. In a report released today, The Gains from Right to Rent in 2010, the CEPR suggests that giving homeowners the right to rent their house at a fair market price could be a game changer in the nation's foreclosure crisis. The report dissects the benefits of a drafted bill, H.R. 5028, also known as The Right to Rent. Under the legislation, homeowners entering the foreclosure process would be able to occupy their homes for up to five years, while paying rent to a lender. Rent would be based on fair market price as determined by an independent appraiser and adjusted annually. "This would give homeowners an important degree of security, since they could not simply be thrown out on the streets," wrote Dean Baker and Hye Jin Rho, co-director of and research assistant at CEPR. "This policy should also benefit neighborhoods in the most hard-hit areas, since they would not have large numbers of vacant homes following foreclosures." The CEPR report, which compares the costs of owning a home and renting in 16 major metropolitan statistical areas around the U.S., found that homeowners would see substantial reductions in costs by becoming renters if they rented in a bubble-inflated market. Savings are much less, however, if the market was not affected by the housing bubble. For example, in the Los Angeles MSA, homeowners would save $1,586 per month by becoming a tenant. The median home price in 2006 and 2007 was $608,600. Based on that number, CEPR found the monthly cost of ownership as $3,128 versus $1,420 to rent. New York/New Jersey, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco savings are all over $1,000. In Detroit, however, the marginal saving is only $89 between owning and renting  home. MSAs including Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Tucson had a difference of less than $500. “With roughly one-in four mortgages underwater, the loan modification plans put forth so far have done little to help homeowners facing foreclosure,” said Baker.  “Right to Rent, on the other hand, would benefit millions, provide families with real housing security, and could go into effect immediately.” And it could fill adequate demand. According to a survey done recently by Apartments.com, 60% of respondents said they prefer renting to buying a home. Almost 30% said they had never rented before but are currently looking for an apartment. The CEPR report includes an appendix with cost analysis for 100 MSAs around the country. Amounts for houses are based on costs for a house that sells at 75% of the median house price. The basis for rental costs is the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment. The calculations used assume the homeowner faces a marginal tax rate of 15%. View the full report here. Write to Christine Ricciardi.

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