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Student debt may hurt housing recovery


WASHINGTON – Feb. 18, 2014 – The housing recovery could lose steam amid escalating student loan debt carried by millions of Americans. With so many people owing a lot of money for their college education, a generation of potential buyers is being discouraged and even blocked from making their first home purchase.

Investors have fueled most of the recent improvements in the housing market, but that demand now appears to be ebbing as both prices and borrowing costs rise.

A recent Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) analysis determined that loan applications for home purchases have decreased almost 20 percent in the last four months versus the same period a year earlier. First-time buyers are simply not stepping up to fill the void, having accounted for only about 33 percent of activity over the last year – well under the historical norm.

The concern is that many young adults can no longer save for a downpayment or qualify for financing.

“Student debt trumps all other consumer debt,” says MBA Chief Executive David H. Stevens. “It’s going to have an extraordinary dampening effect on young peoples’ ability to borrow for a home, and that’s going to impact the housing market and the economy at large.”

The outlook darkens even more with the prospect of an FHA policy change that could take place this year. The agency currently lets its lenders to ignore student debt that is deferred for a year or more when evaluating a borrower’s eligibility – but it’s considering eliminating the waiver.

Source: Washington Post (02/18/14) P. A1; ElBoghdady, Dina

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