Rising student debt loads aren’t just a burden for individuals: they’re a drag on the housing market as well.
That’s according to National Association of Realtors® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, who told an audience at his Residential Economic Issues & Trends Forum that student debt burdens make it harder for buyers to save for a down payment and qualify for a mortgage.
Yun said that from the perspective of mortgage rates, today’s homebuyers are the “luckiest in a generation.” But he added that student debt and many other factors are holding back homebuyers, particularly young and first-time buyers.
Those factors include stagnant wages, rising home prices, and high rents in many areas, all of which Yun says make it harder for people to save for a down payment or qualify for mortgage credit.
“Rents are rising faster than people’s income,” said Yun. “So younger people can’t buy a home.”
NAR’s 2015 PULSE Survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing issues in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas, found that 78 percent of respondents say that student debt burdens represent at least a medium barrier to buying a home.
For all buyers, according to NAR data, the median amount of student loan debt is $25,000.
Yun was joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who also pulled no punches when it came to the topic of student loan debt and its effect on the broader economy.
“Our economy cannot flourish if we do not have enough educated workers,” Warren said, but she added that to get that education, many students have to take on debt that later holds them back.
Warren came armed with plenty of data as well, telling the Realtor® audience that seven out of 10 graduates took out loans to make it through school last year, joining 40 million other Americans with student debt. That debt load totals a staggering $1.3 trillion, according to Warren.
But Warren offered an optimistic tone, telling Realtors® that progress is possible if people get engaged.
“Everything you do ultimately ties to these core economic issues,” she said. “Getting involved in this student loan battle… is a place where you can make a huge difference.”
In particular, Warren thanked Realtors® for their commitment to strengthening the economy and engaging on these issues in their communities.
“It makes me proud to be here with the National Association of Realtors®, with the people who are on the front line to strengthen the middle class,” Warren said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the sponsor of legislation – Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act – that creates a pathway for borrowers to refinance their loans at current market interest rates.
The Residential Economic Issues & Trends Forum took place as part of the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.