¿Qué provocó la crisis inmobiliaria en Estados Unidos? El precio de la gasolina, por supuesto.

Un nuevo paper* de Sexton et al (2012) y publicado por el UCE3 (University of California Center for Energy and Environmental Economics) propone que la razón por la que estalló la crisis inmobiliaria de Estados Unidos en 2007 fue el incremento no anticipado en el precio de la gasolina.

Si bien hay un consenso cuasi universal que dice que la causa de la crisis financiera del 2007 fue el colapso inmobiliario en EUA, no existe una explicación más o menos aceptada de lo que causó dicho colapso en primer lugar:

“Considerable research has posited that the housing boom was fueled variably by new mortgage products, lax lending practices, monetary easing, and federal housing policy–factors that extended home ownership to a new class of borrowers characterized by low incomes, high leverage, and low credit worthiness (see Mayer 2011 for a survey). They produced a housing market that by 2005 was susceptible to collapse. But if housing prices had continued to climb instead of turning down, they would have concealed weaknesses in the market as homeowners could have withdrawn equity from their homes to finance debt obligations. Easy credit, then, could not have triggered the collapse.”

Una combinación de factores, entre ellos los bajos precios de la gasolina por un período de tiempo extendido, contribuyeron al crecimiento del mercado inmobiliario. Cuando los precios del petróleo aumentaron, y por consiguiente, de la gasolina, los costos de vivir en los suburbios de EU se modificaron radicalmente:

“Low energy prices during the housing boom, in combination with lax lending practices and new mortgage products, made suburban houses affordable to a new class of homeowners characterized by low incomes, high leverage, low credit worthiness, and long work commutes. As a result, housing markets by 2005 were fragile. When oil prices more than doubled between late 2005 and mid-2008, peaking at a record high $129 per barrel in July and sending gas prices to $4.15 per gallon, the calculus of suburban living changed.”

El aumento imprevisto en el costo de viajar a los suburbios desató una cadena de eventos que culminarían con el default en el pago de las hipotecas para aquellos con menores ingresos (que, casualmente, vivían más alejados de sus centros de trabajo):

“High commute costs made typical homes less valuable and mortgages less affordable for homeowners characterized by lower average incomes than urban counterparts. Some households could no longer meet mortgage obligations and others walked away from mortgage debt that exceeded the deflated market values of their homes.”

Y esto tuvo un efecto magnificado para la economía:

High rates of default induced shocks in financial markets characterized by excessive leverage. Data from the housing crisis of 2007-08 were used to illustrate the theory of this paper. They showed that the earliest and most significant reductions in home values occurred in suburbs with relatively low median household incomes. The rate of foreclosure increased with distance from the city center.”

Finalmente, ofrece una predicción que, hasta el momento, parece explicar la relativa lentitud de recuperación del mercado inmobiliario y de la economía de EUA:

Amid expectations of a high energy-price future, suburban housing markets are expected to languish as high commute costs fundamentally alter the calculus of living away from city centers. In contrast, urban home prices are expected to recover more quickly from collapse as demand for proximity to the central business district increases. High commute costs shift the suburban boundary inward, meaning homes on the suburban fringe are likely to be abandoned and future housing development is likely to be vertical rather than horizontal.”

 treehugger.com

Fuente: Sexton, S., J. Wu, y D. Zilberman (2012), “How High Gas Prices Triggered the Housing Crisis: Theory and Empirical Evidence”, UC Center for Energy and Environmental Economics.

*Pueden encontrar el paper completo en la siguiente liga.

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