Housing Recovery Will Lose Steam Without Millennials, Study Shows

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One reason for weakness: many young people, saddled with student loan debt, elevated unemployment and less-than-perfect credit scores, are staying out of the market.


New research from Harvard is raising concerns that the housing market recovery could lose momentum because of millennials. That's the generation currently entering the workforce. Instead of buying houses, many are still living at home with their parents. Here's Curt Nickisch of member station WBUR in Boston.

CURT NICKISCH, BYLINE: At home in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Elena Dunlop remembers her realtor from when she and her husband bought their first house back in 1964.

ELENA DUNLOP: And you kept saying to them, oh, these kids really want this house. (Laughing) These kids really want this house. I think he talked them into it.

NICKISCH: What does a woman in her 70s have to do with millennials? Well, Dunlop was 24 years old back when she bought that house. Today's 24-year-olds are not as likely to buy.

GOVERNOR GARY HERBERT: Between paying rent and paying your student loans, it's hard to save any money to buy a home.

NICKISCH: Chris Herbert is with Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. He says this generation started coming of age just as the economy tanked and credit got tight. If millennials aren't buying, he says, it ripples through the entire housing market.

HERBERT: Because if I'm in the middle of the market, and I want to sell my home and move up to the next step on the ladder, I have to have someone out there who is able to buy my home.

NICKISCH: Which brings us back to Elena Dunlop in her 70s and how much she can get for her house someday. Harvard's Herbert says, eventually, this huge millennial generation will buy. The question is, when? For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

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