THE BASIS POINT

Why aren’t there enough homes to buy? Blame old people, says Freddie Mac


You know what’s easier than finding the actual roots of a problem? Blaming old people!

At least, that’s the takeaway you might get from this Freddie Mac report on seniors and housing.

The mortgage giant said since more older folks are staying in their homes rather than moving into retirement homes or, uh, dying, they’re taking up valuable homes we millennials could move into.

If Freddie Mac says so, it’s time to move your grandparents into a retirement home so you can buy a house, right?

No way. The way Freddie’s report is framed unfairly blames seniors for a housing market trend way beyond their control.

You can’t blame older people for living longer and staying in their homes. Who wants to have to give up their home to live in a retirement home if they can take care of themselves? Plus, there’s always the cruel implication in “those damn old people” discourse that these people should just go die, which is beyond awful.

Look at the way Freddie constructs this report:

Seniors born after 1931 are staying in their homes longer, and aging in place. The result is higher homeownership rates for this group relative to previous cohorts.

We estimate that this trend accounts for about 1.6 million houses held back from the market through 2018, representing about one year’s typical supply of new construction, or more than half of the current shortfall of 2.5 million housing units.

The implication here is if seniors would just get busy dying or degrading their quality of life by moving into a retirement home, it wouldn’t be such a big deal that the construction industry isn’t meeting the needs of the market.

But older folks have just as much of a right to love the home they live in as we do. As the market changes, builders need to as well.

The takeaway for us as consumers is we should remember who has the power when we read about big-picture trends.

Who has more control over the housing supply—your grandpa or a home construction company?
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Reference:

While Seniors Age in Place Millennials Wait Longer and May Pay More for their First Homes (Freddie Mac)