Rockville, Md. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsored a study on the impacts of the First-Time Homebuyer Education and Counseling Demonstration. Designed in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, the demonstration aimed to assess whether making free homebuyer education and counseling broadly available improved financial outcomes for recipients of services, as well as their ability to sustain homeownership. Participants in the demonstration reflected a broad, diverse cohort of low- to middle-income prospective homebuyers that were not necessarily representative of typical housing counseling clients. Abt Associates followed participants four to six years after enrollment in the demonstration to compare outcomes between those who received the offer of homebuyer and education and counseling services and those who did not. Overall, Abt found homebuyer education and counseling did not have a detectable impact on key financial outcomes including mortgage performance for the full study sample. However, on average, homebuyer education and counseling did lead to improved outcomes for two subgroups of individuals: women and younger adults. Additionally, there was not a detectable difference between the impact of in-person or remote services. Finally, although not the focus of the demonstration, the findings highlighted significant racial inequities in financial health and the barriers they present to homeownership.
- Women and younger adults (i.e., people who were under the age of 30 when they entered the study sample) both saw improvements in their credit scores relative to their counterparts in the control group: about 6 points for women and 7 points for younger adults.
- There was no discernable difference in impacts between remote and in-person services. As a result, the relatively low cost of providing services virtually may provide an opportunity to expand access to other populations without a detrimental effect on program outcomes.
- People who are African American or Hispanic face greater challenges to homeownership. The impact of the intervention for the African American or Hispanic subgroups in the demonstration did not systematically differ from the impact for the white subgroup. However, the study highlights the structural barriers facing these groups—such as lower credit scores and lower levels of savings—that homebuyer education and counseling did little to overcome. Larger, bolder policies that directly address these structural barriers will likely be needed to make it possible for more people of color to benefit from the wealth-building mechanisms of homeownership.
“While the results of this study indicate there’s no single, monolithic solution to educating homebuyers, the improvements for women and younger people imply greater customization for certain population segments might work well,” said Abt’s Laura Peck, one of the evaluation’s co-principal investigators. “However, programs that advance equity in homeownership may need to be more intensive, for example, by considering structural and systemic barriers.”
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