Noted development economist Hernando de Soto identifies the lack of private property protections as one of the biggest barriers to home ownership in developing nations. Kevork Hovnanian can attest to that theory. An Armenian Christian who had developed a large road-construction company in Iraq, Hovnanian was forced to flee the country in 1959 when the Baathist party overthrew the government.Hovnanian knew construction from top to bottom, however, and upon arriving in New Jersey he cobbled together family funds to restart his business. He eventually started a home-construction company committed to building affordable townhouses and condominiums for first-time buyers. By 1983, Hovnanian was ready to take his fledgling company public, and Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert underwrote the company’s initial public offering. In ensuing years, Drexel issued subordinated notes, commercial paper and common stock that put Hovnanian on the road to becoming one of America’s leading home builders. Under the leadership of Kevork and his son, Ara, Hovnanian Enterprises has expanded its portfolio to include single-family homes ranging from $70,000 to nearly $1 million.