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Affordability and Germany's low homeownership rate

Affordability and Germany's low homeownership rate Purpose – Relative to comparable industrialized countries, Germany stands out in terms of its low homeownership rate (43 percent). For Germany, it is unknown so far to what extent the low rate of homeownership can be related to housing being unaffordable. One reason for the lack of evidence is the apparent lack of data. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap. Design/methodology/approach – Based on a regional dataset of 3.9 million asking prices of housing units collected by a real estate listing engine, the paper applies internationally established affordability concepts to the German housing market. The authors then run a number of cross‐section regressions at the level of the 16 German federal states, using the affordability measures as explanatory variables of the rate of homeownership. Findings – The results show that the average German household would have to sacrifice a large part of its non‐housing consumption to afford homeownership, especially of single‐family homes. As the regional analysis reveals, certain types of household can even be considered excluded from the ownership market in some particularly unaffordable states with cost burdens of over 50 percent, such as Bavaria. The cross‐section regression results for the 16 federal states affirm the importance of affordability as a determinant of the homeownership rate. Research limitations/implications – The official data on ownership rates are rather spotty over time and only available for a single year (2006) for the time frame that is considered for the affordability analysis (2005‐2010). Given the data limitations, the regression analysis has to be confined to a single cross section least squares regression for 2006. The authors are aware that to obtain truly convincing results, it would be necessary to capture the development of ownership rates in different localities in Germany, such as the 16 federal states, over time and to check to what extent the affordability measures can explain any of the variation in ownership rates in a panel data framework with fixed effects for federal states and time. However, the authors feel that the regression results may serve as a starting point; they are better than a set of simple correlations, even if they constitute not a conclusive causal analysis. Practical implications – Any public policy initiative to raise Germany's homeownership rate will have to address the question of how to make housing more affordable. The recent elimination of homeowner subsidies is working in exactly the opposite direction. Originality/value – The affordability approach used is technically not new or challenging, but it offers a basis for comparison that has been conspicuously lacking so far for the fourth largest economy of the world. By applying affordability concepts that are well accepted and in use internationally, the authors believe that they can provide at least some suggestive evidence that can further spur research into the affordability issue. While the authors do not break new methodological ground with their paper, they do provide a basis of comparison for policy discussion and for further research. Germany provides a unique environment for affordability research, due to its reunification history, observations from which may thus yield insights valuable to the international research community. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Housing Markets and Analysis Emerald Publishing

Affordability and Germany's low homeownership rate

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1753-8270
DOI
10.1108/17538271211243616
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – Relative to comparable industrialized countries, Germany stands out in terms of its low homeownership rate (43 percent). For Germany, it is unknown so far to what extent the low rate of homeownership can be related to housing being unaffordable. One reason for the lack of evidence is the apparent lack of data. The purpose of this paper is to fill this gap. Design/methodology/approach – Based on a regional dataset of 3.9 million asking prices of housing units collected by a real estate listing engine, the paper applies internationally established affordability concepts to the German housing market. The authors then run a number of cross‐section regressions at the level of the 16 German federal states, using the affordability measures as explanatory variables of the rate of homeownership. Findings – The results show that the average German household would have to sacrifice a large part of its non‐housing consumption to afford homeownership, especially of single‐family homes. As the regional analysis reveals, certain types of household can even be considered excluded from the ownership market in some particularly unaffordable states with cost burdens of over 50 percent, such as Bavaria. The cross‐section regression results for the 16 federal states affirm the importance of affordability as a determinant of the homeownership rate. Research limitations/implications – The official data on ownership rates are rather spotty over time and only available for a single year (2006) for the time frame that is considered for the affordability analysis (2005‐2010). Given the data limitations, the regression analysis has to be confined to a single cross section least squares regression for 2006. The authors are aware that to obtain truly convincing results, it would be necessary to capture the development of ownership rates in different localities in Germany, such as the 16 federal states, over time and to check to what extent the affordability measures can explain any of the variation in ownership rates in a panel data framework with fixed effects for federal states and time. However, the authors feel that the regression results may serve as a starting point; they are better than a set of simple correlations, even if they constitute not a conclusive causal analysis. Practical implications – Any public policy initiative to raise Germany's homeownership rate will have to address the question of how to make housing more affordable. The recent elimination of homeowner subsidies is working in exactly the opposite direction. Originality/value – The affordability approach used is technically not new or challenging, but it offers a basis for comparison that has been conspicuously lacking so far for the fourth largest economy of the world. By applying affordability concepts that are well accepted and in use internationally, the authors believe that they can provide at least some suggestive evidence that can further spur research into the affordability issue. While the authors do not break new methodological ground with their paper, they do provide a basis of comparison for policy discussion and for further research. Germany provides a unique environment for affordability research, due to its reunification history, observations from which may thus yield insights valuable to the international research community.

Journal

International Journal of Housing Markets and AnalysisEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 27, 2012

Keywords: Housing affordability; Housing market analysis; Rent or buy; Europe; Germany; Housing

References