Research Spotlight: Cox study finds mortgage default minimal for Habitat homeowners

Stock photo of foreclosure signsAt a time when most lenders are overwhelmed by crushing caseloads of delinquent home loans and foreclosures, Habitat for Humanity International is telling a different story.

Habitat for Humanity is the Americus, Georgia-based nonprofit company that builds thousands of homes for lower-income Americans each year. Habitat also originates mortgages on the homes and, in most cases, holds the loans on its books. In 2010, it ranked as the one of the nation’s largest builders, constructing nearly 4,600 new homes nationwide. The group also fixed up and resold more than 1,400 homes.

Most of Habitat’s borrowers have household incomes below their area’s median income – a population often at risk for foreclosure. Yet Habitat says foreclosures are minimal.

A recent study led by SMU’s Cox School of Business, which was commissioned by the Dallas branch of Habitat, found that foreclosures in Habitat’s Dallas market were less than 2% last year. Although the report only looked at the Dallas office of Habitat, the findings mirror those found in other Habitat offices across the country, the organization says.

As politicians and economists disagree on whether and to what degree lower-income Americans should be encouraged to own homes – some even blame lenders’ outreach to lower-income borrowers for the housing collapse – the case of Habitat indicates these borrowers can receive mortgages without high default levels.

> Read the full story by Dawn Wotapka at The Wall Street Journal online