Too much mortgage debt? The effect of housing financialization on housing supply and residential capital formation

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Abstract

This article argues that the explosion of mortgage finance has not led to a proportional expansion of housing supply across 17 countries in a historical perspective (1913-2016). Based on a collection of housing construction data, it shows that the co-cyclical behavior of construction, prices and mortgage credit has been followed by a decoupling of house-price mortgage spirals from the underlying stagnating or declining construction activity since the 1980s. Mortgage debt is nonlinearly associated with new construction: positive up to a threshold, negative thereafter. The article argues that the increasing use of housing as an asset, or housing financialization, can explain why mortgages grow without construction, i.e. through privatization of state housing and supply restrictions as a result of rentier strategies of housing-market insiders and private developers. Private mortgage markets have thus been a less reliable policy alternative to traditional state-led housing construction policies. The article confirms for housing what has previously been found for growth or capital formation: beyond a certain threshold, there is a curse of too much finance.

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APA

Kohl, S. (2021). Too much mortgage debt? The effect of housing financialization on housing supply and residential capital formation. Socio-Economic Review, 19(2), 413–440. https://doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwaa030

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