After three decades of stability, the national rate of homeownership suddenly began rising around 1995. The rush to buy homes fueled an enormous surge in housing construction and home prices. Experts differed on the cause of the increase in homeownership, from 64.2% of households in early 1995 to 69.1% in early 2005. Was it the aging of the population? Or was it an expression of what President George W. Bush calls the "ownership society"?
Neither. Surprising new research published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta concludes that the bulk of the increase was caused by innovations in the mortgage market, in particular the explosion of "piggyback" or "combo" loans that made it possible for people to make small or zero down payments. Young families with little savings flocked to those loans to buy first homes.
A Troubled 'Ownership Society' [BusinessWeek]