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Fixing the Housing Market: Financial Innovations for the Future by James R. Barth, Franklin Allen, Glenn R. Yago

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2. Building Blocks of Modern Housing Finance1

For many people, homeownership is the “American Dream,” as well as an indicator of status, position, and individual identity. But for most people, the dream can’t come true without taking advantage of lending practices that have evolved in the U.S. since pre-Civil War days, with the birth of the savings and loan industry.

But first, how does America stack up against other nations in terms of home ownership? The answer to that question has varied over time.

In 1890, the U.S. homeownership rate was at 17.9%, compared to 6.7% for Europeans. By the middle of the twentieth century, that rate had risen above 61% in the U.S., but European countries were gaining as well. Their rates were 50% for Belgium, ...

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