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Abstract:

cover
CEP Discussion Paper
Affordability, Financial Innovation and the Start of the Housing Boom
Jane K. Dokko, Benjamin J. Keys and Lindsay E. Relihan
March 2019
Paper No' CEPDP1611:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: G22; R21; R22


Tags: housing policy; mortgage loans; subprime mortgage

At their peak in 2005, roughly 60 percent of all purchase mortgage loans originated in the United States contained at least one non-traditional feature. These features, which allowed borrowers easier access to credit through teaser interest rates, interest-only or negative amortization periods, and extended payment terms, have been the subject of much regulatory and popular criticism. In this paper, we construct a novel county-level dataset to analyze the relationship between rising house prices and non-traditional features of mortgage contracts. We apply a break-point methodology and find that in housing markets with breaks in the mid-2000s, a strong rise in the use of non-traditional mortgages preceded the start of the housing boom. Furthermore, their rise was coupled with declining denial rates and a shift from FHA to subprime mortgages. Our findings support the view that a change in mortgage contract availability and a shift toward subprime borrowers helped to fuel the rise of house prices during the last decade.