Zillow kicked off the White House’s celebration of Big Block of Cheese Day this morning by hosting a question-and-answer session with Secretary Julián Castro, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Castro called 2015 the “year of housing opportunity,” citing economic forces and President Obama’s recent decision to shave the cost of insurance premiums for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans.
Questions came from an audience in Washington, DC, and from social media at the first event in Zillow’s Housing Roadmap series that will explore housing issues across the country. The hashtag #HousinginAmerica will continue to inform future events.
Three takeaways from Castro’s chat with Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries:
- Here come the millennials: After delaying home buying for years, millennials will finally jump into the market in substantial numbers this year, Castro predicted. They are catching financial breaks from an improving economy, lower gas prices, the lower FHA premium and home prices leveling off. Humphries added that waiting for millennials to jump into the market has been akin to watching the play “Waiting for Godot” and said that by early 2016, he expects them to pass Generation X as the nation’s largest group of home buyers.
- Finding a happy place for home loans: The FHA is working to loosen credit standards in a responsible way, Castro said. “We see a lot of folks who have decent credit who have had a challenge getting home loans.” He said that does not mean the government wants a return to practices from the housing bubble, when “perhaps it was too easy to get a home loan.”
- Homeownership can take people from zero to wealth: Castro emphasized the value of homeownership as a means of upward mobility. While owning a home is not right for everyone, he said, he wants more people to be able to afford one. “So many Americans have a net worth that is very close to zero,” he said. “Being able to own a home and pass that wealth to the next generation is an avenue toward intergenerational stability and upward mobility.”