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The Case Against Home Ownership

This morning on the Streetsblog Network, we're featuring a thoughtful post from Greater Greater Washington in which David C dares to challenge the very foundation of the "American Dream" -- home ownership.

186433302_143913ed9e.jpgPhoto by Transguyjay via Flickr.
A variety of government policies and programs have dramatically increased home ownership. But lately, some have been advocating that the government stop subsidizing home ownership, arguing that it locks people to a place, and when the economy goes sour people need the flexibility to go where the jobs are. I would say that we need to take it farther and that, in addition to allowing the unemployed to move to work, encourage the employed to move closer to work.

He goes on to cite several studies that show home ownership can be an inefficient use of a family's financial assets, as well as Richard Florida's recent article in the Atlantic, "How the Crash Will Reshape America":

Florida talks about creating national rental companies that will allow you to transfer a lease to another property and facilitate your move, instead of charging you for breaking your lease and leaving you to fend for yourself in the next town. That's similar to the way people trade in a car for the new one. Our public policy should encourage that as well.

Furthermore, we need to change tax laws that don't accommodate all types of mobility. Current federal tax laws allow deducting moving expenses. But the time and distance requirements do not allow you, as bankrate.com puts it, to move just "to ease your daily commute to work." But why shouldn't we subsidize a move to ease your daily commute? We subsidize your commute through tax deductions for commuting expenses. Why not subsidize easing the commute? Doesn't it also carry environmental advantages that we want to encourage? Shorter commutes strengthen families, and ease everyone else's commute too. Isn't that more of a public good than home ownership?

A piece we ran a couple of weeks back on a similar topic, Where's "Against Transportation," generated a lot of comments. We're interested to hear your thoughts on this one. Should we become a more mobile society, picking up and moving where the jobs are? Is this even remotely realistic in a country where many families rely on the incomes of two adults?

Bonus reading: Making Places (the PPS blog) has a related post called "A World Where Cars Have a Right to Housing and People Don't."