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The Journey Toward Home

News Type Public Address

Huntington National Bank executives Jason Fraley, left, and Barbara Benham, second from right, discuss homeowner research with Professor Stephanie Moulton, second from left, and Michael Pires, project manager, Power of Home.

John Glenn College of Public Affairs Professor Stephanie Moulton has spent her research career investigating housing policies and programs, specifically seeking ways to make homeownership more equitable and sustainable.

“It is not just through home buying that people build wealth, it is through home owning. Building wealth through home owning requires resources that are not always available to first-generation homeowners,” Moulton said.

They’re often at a disadvantage when it comes to investing in their homes, she explained: They make too much money to qualify for low-income grants for home repairs, but they don’t have enough money or home equity to qualify for low-cost home equity loans or lines of credit. 

To help address these disparities, Moulton leads a program called Power of Home, which provides ongoing support and access to resources to Ohio first-time homeowners. In spring 2022, the program added a new feature: access to a low-cost loan for home repairs available to Power of Home homeowners through a partnership with The Huntington National Bank. 

“Many first-time home buyers purchase homes with little cash down and no available equity,” said Jason Fraley, senior vice president and chief environmental, social and governance officer for Huntington. “This means consumers do not have access to equity to finance repair needs. By providing an affordable renovation product, we help consumers finance these repairs without having to rely on higher-cost debt, such as personal loans or credit cards. Ultimately, we believe this approach improves the likelihood that a consumer will be able to stay in their home, avoid delinquency when they are faced with a costly repair, and invest in their homes for the long-term, building wealth.” 

Through Huntington, Power of Home homeowners can apply for an unsecured loan for up to $10,000 at a 3.99% interest rate with no fees. The low rate is possible thanks to a grant from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which helps cover the loss if someone defaults on the loan and helps keep the interest rates affordable.

At no cost to homeowners, through a grant to Ohio State from American Family Insurance, Power of Home also supports homeowners with access to financial counseling through Apprisen and pre-construction counseling through local NeighborWorks Ohio organizations.

Power of Home is currently available to first-time homebuyers who purchased a home through one of Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s affordable mortgage programs; however, the team is working to expand access to other homeowners in Ohio. 

Michael Pires, project manager for Power of Home, leads the preservation and sustainability workstream for Convergence Columbus, an initiative to increase homeownership for Black households in the Columbus area. 

“Affordable housing and sustainable homeownership are key factors for improving generational wealth. Yet this pathway is often less attainable for Black Americans who yield a homeownership rate of 46.4% compared to 75.8% of white families, per the Brookings Institution,” said Pires, who also is the grant manager for the Ohio State Battelle Center for Science, Engineering and Public Policy at the Glenn College. “Because homeownership presents an opportunity for investments, buying power and improving credit, it is critical for Black households and practitioners to prioritize the preservation of a home purchase to narrow the wealth gap.” 

In another move to support homeowners, Huntington has provided a $300,000 research grant for Moulton to study older adult homeowners, making sure they have affordable access to their home equity — often the primary source of their wealth. Moulton and her colleagues will analyze anonymized bank account data supplied by Huntington and credit data to understand the outcomes of older adults who were previously approved for or denied home equity loans. This will help shed light on ways to better serve the needs of older adults. 

Older adults have quite a bit of equity in their home, so they could borrow relatively cheaply, for example, to make modifications so they can age in place.

Professor Stephanie Moulton
John Glenn College of Public Affairs

The problem: Many don’t qualify for low-cost home equity loans or cannot afford the monthly mortgage payment based on traditional underwriting practices.

Moulton’s prior research found that home equity borrowing by older adults leads to an increase in food security and a decrease in skipping medications because of cost — with the largest effects observed for homeowners for whom home equity is their primary source of wealth. Older homeowners who cannot access home equity may turn to credit cards and other higher cost forms of debt to make ends meet.

“We are optimistic that Dr. Moulton’s work can provide much needed insight into the challenges faced by older adults in accessing home equity to enable them to leverage their wealth to improve their home and lives,” said Barbara Benham, executive vice president and chief public affairs officer for Huntington, who also serves on the Glenn College Board of Distinguished Visitors. “We think this research could provide insight on how lenders could reconsider underwriting practices to make safe and sound lending decisions to more consumers, and her findings may have applicability beyond older adults.”

Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.