A recent survey commissioned by NeighborWorks America, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit community development corporation, revealed that nearly one out of four Americans knows someone who has delayed buying a home because of student loan debt.
NeighborWorks' Second Annual America at Home Survey showed that student loan debt and perceived overtightness of lending has prevented or delayed homeownership despite the fact that 60 percent of American adults surveyed said owning a home was either "the most important" or a "very important" part of the American dream.
"Earning a postsecondary degree is increasingly critical in the United States, but student debt is preventing some Americans from purchasing a home and fully fulfilling this ‘American Dream’ aspiration," said Chuck Wehrwein, acting CEO of NeighborWorks America. "If we don’t mitigate the effect student loan burden is having and will have for years to come on homeownership, the country will lose a significant amount of economic activity and hundreds of thousands of people will be unable to benefit from the stability and financial value that homeownership has been proven to offer."
Forty-nine percent of those who had student loan debt said the debt was an obstacle to their purchase of a home. Student loan debt was the single largest obstacle to home buying among those who have debt, with 17 percent. Lack of a down payment was the second largest obstacle, with 14 percent, the survey found.
The survey revealed that of those with student loan debt, 20 percent are more likely to say their opinion of homeownership has changed for the worse over the past five years. It was also revealed in the survey that while African-Americans and Hispanics make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, those two groups accounted for 29 percent of the student loan debt nationwide. Also, women made up 58 percent of those with student loan debt.
Housing counseling and education is an option to reduce risk for borrowers who are unable to purchase a home because student loan debt makes their debt-to-income ratio impossible for them to be approved for a mortgage loan. According to the survey, 25 percent of consumers with student loan debt said they would consider housing counseling, while only 13 percent of consumers without debt said they would.
"The earnings potential for college graduates increases over time," Wehrwein said. "By prudently investing in these graduates and counseling those who aspire to homeownership, more Americans can put down stronger community roots and become a larger part of our economy."