Recovery in the housing market will become a main driver for growth next year, according to one Chicago-based financial services firm. Mesirow Financial analysts said housing has fallen so low that there's only one way to go, but the expected level of activity in home sales and starts "is expected to remain closer to that associated with a recession than a recovery, well into 2012." Earlier Thursday, the Commerce Department reported housing starts rose 3.9% in November, while construction permits fell to the lowest point in a year and a half. "Low mortgage rates, more realistic pricing and rising comparable rents have all combined to render the marginal costs of home ownership lower than renting," according to Diane Swonk, Mesirow Financial chief economist and senior managing director. "Gains in both employment and wages should also provide a lift to credit scores. So far, however, gains remain concentrated in wealthier, more established neighborhoods." The company also said yield-seeking investors looking to generate returns higher than 3% on 10-year Treasury securities have flocked into real estate lately. Although investors and lenders are leaning toward the same primary assets – those in large, core urban areas. Mesirow Financial said 35% of all major office transactions in the U.S. this year occurred in New York or Washington, while 45% of European office deals have taken place in London or Paris. Secondary assets aren't attracting capital and are trading at much higher yields and lower prices, according to the company. "Refinancing risks are higher for owners of these assets and new capital infused, in our view, presents a much better risk-adjusted return than core today, as there is a much higher margin for error," according to Joshua Daitch, senior managing director at Mesirow Financial. He said the global economic recovery is occurring at different speeds with economies of the developed world, "burdened by overleveraged public and private balance sheets," moving much slower. Meanwhile, the growing urbanization and development of a middle class in China and India creates "real demand that has to be satisfied by apartment, retail, logistics and office buildings." Write to Jason Philyaw.