Yung Chun, research assistant professor of the Social Policy Institute and Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, received a $350,000 research award from Habitat for Humanity International to evaluate homeownership programs implemented by local Habitat affiliates and investigate the impact on wealth building for households with low incomes. Through this project, the Social Policy Institute and Brown School at Washington University research team aims to assess to what extent Habitat affiliates contribute to wealth building and financial health of Habitat homeowners, how variations in program design and implementation by Habitat affiliates impact homeowners’ wealth building and financial health, and best practices Habitat affiliates demonstrate in support to Habitat homeowners.
Homeownership is strongly associated with overall improvement in upward economic and social mobility. Furthermore, homeownership is a cornerstone of wealth building in the United States, as housing makes up 37% of the total assets of U.S. households. Meanwhile, Black and Latino or Hispanic homeowners have disparate rates of housing equity compared to white homeowners. In 2015, for example, the median non-Hispanic white homeowner had $100,000 of home equity, whereas the median Black and Hispanic/Latino had $60,000. Practices, such as redlining in the housing market and discriminatory mortgage lending, contribute to homeownership and appraisal gaps, which lead to disparities in wealth for homeowners and future generations. Habitat for Humanity programs work to increase access to affordable homes, reduce poverty, and build community and social capital for low-income families, those between 30-80% Area Median Income. This is the first national study to examine the long-term impact of Habitat’s work on homeowner wealth building.
The highly collaborative research process with Habitat will uniquely capture the lived experiences of Habitat homeowners over time through qualitative and quantitative research methods. In addition to Yung Chun, Co-PIs include Michal Grinstein-Weiss, founding director of SPI, and Stephen Roll, associate director of research at SPI. Other SPI team members include Mathieu Despard, faculty director, Jason Jabbari, research assistant professor, Laura Brugger, data analyst III, Sophia Fox-Dichter, data analyst II, and Katie Kristensen, program manager.