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Three trends, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released November 2016 Insight, are currently informing the movement of the housing market: income inequality, and rising land costs and use restrictions.

“These three longstanding trends—ones that have been building quietly over decades—ultimately will have more influence on housing than the week-to-week oscillations of mortgage rates or any of a host of other short-term indicators of housing activity,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “These three trends affect housing and mortgage markets through their influence on both the demand for and the supply of housing.

“The change in income distribution shifts the demand for housing—both the total demand for homeownership and the demand for different types of housing. The rising share of land costs shifts the supply of housing—houses cost more than before because of the higher cost of the land component of the house. And land use restrictions limit the supply of more-affordable housing in richer states. No analysis of the future housing market is complete without considering them.”

How will these trends bear out? Freddie Mac forecasts five potential outcomes: a boost to the homeownership rate, if future changes in income distribution are similar to changes over the last four decades; the return of homeownership as a means to wealth creation, most pronounced in richer states; an increase in the share of upper-income households and a decrease in the share of lower- and middle-income households, shifting shares of mortgage finance supplied by FHA/VA, GSEs and the private sector; an increase in housing inequality, especially in cities; and an increase in home price volatility, especially where buildable land is scarce.

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