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Housing and mortgage financing are not ready for demographic shift

Aging boomers, more diverse millennials create unprecedented challenge

The housing industry and the mortgage finance industry are not ready for the great demographic shift that is coming as boomers age and a more ethnically diverse block of millennials and post-millennials come of age.

That was the agreement among five former secretaries of Housing and Urban Development gathered at the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Summit in Washington, D.C. on Monday afternoon.

“HUD is not prepared for this demographic tsunami and neither is the country,” said former Clinton-era HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. “The older, aging population presents a number of challenges, as does the younger population with its greater diversity.”

Cisneros said the greater diversity of the younger portion of the housing market is a challenge in terms of the lack of the necessary rental stock that serves as a step for younger Americans to become homeowners.

“It is clear that some people should not have become homeowners but the wrong lesson is the new minority population coming up should not be homeowners,” Cisneros said.

He added that homeownership is not just important for the country – it is – but is a primary driver of individual wealth creation.

Former Bush 43-era HUD Secretary Mel Martinez said that he believes housing policy has to be more creative in how it “subsidizes” homeownership – deductions, down payment assistance and the fact that post-QM makes it harder for many to qualify for a mortgage.

“Additionally, clearer rules of the game are what the financial institutions are wanting,” Martinez said.

Former Ford-era HUD Secretary Carla Hills said that housing reform and policy must be cohesive and flexible, because of the diversity of housing needs and the diversity of housing markets – New York City and Denver are very different markets, for instance.

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