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Hedge funds out bid would-be homeowners

Tuesday morning brings a "glass half-empty and half-full" set of reports on housing. The Case-Shiller home-price index, which has been climbing steadily, is expected to be up more than 12 percent year-over-year. Then, the Census Bureau will report on homeownership rates, which have been falling steadily ever since the housing crash, with no bottom yet.

Homeownership in America hit a record high of 69 percent in the mid-2000s. Mortgages were easy to come by -- with or without income, or a down-payment. Then, in the Great Recession, millions of Americans lost their homes.

The homeownership rate has now fallen to 65 percent. It’s lower among minorities and young families. Reasons include tighter mortgage underwriting by banks, a shortage of new homes from builders, and general insecurity over jobs and income.

But would-be buyers are also being shut out of the market, out-bid by hedge funds and asset managers, says Paul Diggle at Capital Economics.

“Investors took the view that housing was cheap and they then started to buy housing in bulk, paying ash, to rent out to people, who in the normal course of events, would have been owning those homes, but who are trapped in rental for longer.”

Or, trapped living with mom and dad in the basement.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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