Ending the Ideology of Homeownership

Paul Krugman writes that we need to stop conflating owing a home with citizenship.

"[H]ere's a question rarely asked, at least in Washington: Why should ever-increasing homeownership be a policy goal? How many people should own homes, anyway?

Listening to politicians, you'd think that every family should own its home - in fact, that you're not a real American unless you're a homeowner. 'If you own something,' Mr. Bush once declared, 'you have a vital stake in the future of our country.' Presumably, then, citizens who live in rented housing, and therefore lack that 'vital stake,' can't be properly patriotic. Bring back property qualifications for voting!

And the belief that you're nothing if you don't own a home is reflected in U.S. policy. Because the I.R.S. lets you deduct mortgage interest from your taxable income but doesn't let you deduct rent, the federal tax system provides an enormous subsidy to owner-occupied housing. On top of that, government-sponsored enterprises - Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks - provide cheap financing for home buyers; investors who want to provide rental housing are on their own.

In effect, U.S. policy is based on the premise that everyone should be a homeowner. But here's the thing: There are some real disadvantages to homeownership. [L]et's try to open our minds to the possibility that those who choose to rent rather than buy can still share in the American dream - and still have a stake in the nation's future."

Full Story: Home Not-So-Sweet Home

Comments

Comments

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I thought we answered this question long ago. Is there a debate? No, not everyone should own a home. Plain and simple. Owning is great, and in the long run, a great investment, if you are capable and responsible enough to plan for all of the eventualities that go along with owning, mature enough to stay the course when times are tough, and have enough integrity not to walk away and/or destroy the property when you don't see an immediate gain. Clearly, as we have seen lately, many many people are not capable of responsibly purchasing.

American Economic Ideology

Well, the "everyone should own a home" is on a plane with "everyone should go to college" usually meaning at least a 4-year college. This seems to be a bipartisan delusion propagaded both the McCain and Obama camps.

Never mind that many, many perfectly honorable and well-paying trades and professions DO NOT require a 4-year degree, really. Such as auto mechanics, various sorts of trades such as construction, and many, many others, in fact MOST jobs even computer programming these dayz--a lot of hackers/programmers are self-taught, starting as teenagers or sometimes even before.

Economics Vs. Community

"Owning a home also ties workers down. Even in the best of times, the costs and hassle of selling one home and buying another ... tend to make workers reluctant to go where the jobs are."

I usually like Krugman's writing, but here he is too much of an economist.

One of the benefits of homeownership is that it gives people a stake in their communities and makes them more likely to work to improve their neighborhoods.

Krugman claims that it is best not to be committed to a community, so you can easily go where wages are higher. But this small extra boost to the economy is not as important as having stronger communities.

Charles Siegel

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