Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing

This paper looks at how homeownership leads to positive social outcomes. It examines not only the ownership of homes, but also the impact of stable housing.

Research has consistently shown the importance of the housing sector on the economy and the long-term social and financial benefits to individual homeowners. The economic benefits of the housing market and homeownership are immense and well-documented. The housing sector directly accounted for approximately 15.6 percent of total economic activity in 2015. Household real estate holdings totaled $22.5 trillion in the last quarter of 2015. After subtracting mortgage liabilities, net real estate household equity totaled $13.0 trillion.

Line graph: Homeownership Rate, 1900 to 2015

In addition to tangible financial benefits, homeownership brings substantial social benefits for families, communities, and the country as a whole. Because of these societal benefits, policy makers have promoted homeownership through a number of channels. Homeownership has been an essential element of the American Dream for decades and continues to be so even today.

The purpose of this paper is to review existing academic literature that documents the social benefits of homeownership. Furthermore, this paper examines not only the ownership of homes, but also the impact of stable housing (as opposed to transitory housing and homelessness) on social outcomes, looking specifically at the following outcome measures:

  • Educational achievement;
  • Civic participation;
  • Health benefits;
  • Crime;
  • Public assistance; and
  • Property maintenance and improvement.

In general, research supports the view that homeownership brings substantial social benefits. Because of these extensive social benefits - what economists call positive externalities - policies that support sustainable homeownership are well-justified.

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