The tax legislation working its way through Congress would only slightly lower home values and could boost homeownership, according to a new analysis from the White House that addresses fears that the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction could create a large disincentive for homeowners.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers paper found that the House tax bill’s treatment of the mortgage deduction would result mostly in simplification. The number of people taking the simple standard deduction, rather than itemizing specific deductions, would increase from 74 percent to 92 percent, and the study said there would be a very small impact on home prices.
“We project that equilibrium housing prices will experience a muted reduction of less than 4 percent, while homeownership rates may rise modestly as a result of the current tax reform proposals before Congress,” the 13-page study concluded.
The White House analysis provides a response to housing industry groups, such as the National Association of Realtors, that oppose the GOP tax push and have warned that it could tank housing markets.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill would affect the mortgage deduction indirectly by nearly doubling the standard deduction. Taxpayers can either itemize specific deductions, such as the one for mortgage interest, or take the standard deduction, but with the doubled standard deduction, far fewer people will need to itemize. As a result, for those people, getting tax breaks won’t be contingent on taking out a mortgage, which could reduce demand for housing.
The House bill also would lower the cap on mortgage balances eligible for the deduction, down from $1 million to $500,000.
Traditionally, housing interests have defended the deduction on the basis that it increases homeownership.
The Council of Economic Advisers study, though, reviewed some academic literature on the topic and concluded that there is “no significant positive effect” of the break on homeownership rates.
It also noted that Canada and other countries with far fewer homeownership tax breaks have homeownership rates similar to those of the U.S.