The relentless promotion of homeownership as the embodiment of the American dream has outlived its usefulness.
Historically, the pursuit of homeownership dates to the Great Depression of the 1930s, notes historian A. Scott Henderson of Furman University. In some ways, it's a great success story. In 1940, 44 percent of households owned a home; by 1985, the rate was 64 percent. The size and quality of homes have increased dramatically. Owning a home contributes to neighborhood stability and encourages property improvement.
Unfortunately, we let a sensible goal become a foolish fetish. Not everyone can become a homeowner. Some are too young and footloose; some are too old and dependent; some are too poor or irresponsible. Some don't want a home. ...
Tax breaks for homeowners ... exceeded $120 billion in 2009, reports the Congressional Budget Office. These benefits go heavily to higher-income borrowers, who are encouraged to buy bigger and more expensive homes that generate larger tax savings. This is both unfair and unnecessary. By contrast, government subsidies for lower-income renters are skimpier...
The single-minded promotion of homeownership failed and, paradoxically, undermined the American dream. It contributed to the housing "bubble" and favors housing investment over new industries and technologies.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Homeownership fetish harmful
Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson writes: