In the midst of the mad selling and explaining and quantifying and qualifying of potentially the biggest U.S. tax overhaul in decades, President Donald Trump's chief economic advisor stood at a White House podium and made a bold declaration: "People don't buy homes because of the mortgage deduction."
He said that, even though members of the Trump administration have repeatedly said they will "protect" the popular tax break.
There are a lot of reasons people buy homes — financial, practical and emotional. For the vast majority of those who make that choice, it is by far their single largest investment. Until the financial crisis, the common belief was the home prices always rise, and a home was therefore a proven way to build wealth, but that was proven wrong.
More than 6.5 million homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure in the past 10 years, according to Attom Data Solutions, and 2.8 million current homeowners still owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth. This after home prices plummeted nationally for the first time since the Great Depression.
Most consumers, at least according to several recent surveys, still believe that a home is a good investment. The majority of renters still aspire to homeownership, despite the fact that millennials have been deemed the "renter generation." That designation is likely more due to high student loan debt and lower initial employment for this generation than anything else. Millennials have also been slower to marry and have children, which are the primary drivers of homeownership.
"I think people buy homes because it represents security and a way to build wealth and a sense of stability," said Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute. "I don't think the mortgage interest deduction plays a large role in that decision."