Housing Is America’s Preferred Wealth-Creating Machine

Since the Spring of 2013, when the overhang of the housing crisis had mostly worn off, Americans have consistently seen real estate as the most productive vehicle for their savings over the long run, according to a new Gallup poll:

Since the 1940s, a central pillar of American social policy has been to make it easier for the average American family to buy a home with a small downpayment and an affordable monthly payment based on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. This system has been responsible for the creation of trillions of dollars in assets for middle class and lower middle class Americans, and in most American families housing represents their single greatest financial asset.

One of the causes of the continuing disparity between black and white family net worth is the lingering effect of the redlining and other discriminatory practices that largely excluded African American families from the benefits of federal housing policy for much of the postwar period.

With the large millennial generation now reaching the age of household formation, it’s vital that we make sure that the great wealth-creating machine is ready for them. There are still major obstacles: NIMBY land use policies block too many people out of the housing market. And the country lacks the necessary infrastructure to construct a Third Ring of Suburbs—that is, another wave of housing construction further out from city centers.

This shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. It is mission critical: The millennial generation needs a seat at the table and a piece of the pie.

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