Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home Ownership Under Attack

A lesson in the pride of home ownership.

Some of you may know that we own a home in the Lehigh Valley, just south of Allentown.  We have owned if since 1999.  For the past two and half years we have been leasing it out to a very nice family from Japan who was in the US working as an executive at the US headquarters of Olympus. 

As nice and wonderful as these people were, it was clear that they did not have the same commitment that we do regarding maintenance and care for the home.  It wasn't that they were bad.  In fact, I would classify them as "good" tenants.  They simply did not invest themselves into the home the way we would as owners. 

Recently we have been having a debate as to how much we are willing to work on this place since it is unclear whether we will return there or not.  If we do, then it makes sense to really get it "in-shape".  If not, then we will do only what is necessary so that we can get it sold.

Ownership makes a difference.

A news article in this morning's Washington Post caught my eye. Next up for reform: Housing finance. In the article, HUD Secretary is quoted as saying "For many Americans, renting will continue to be the only or preferred option".

This is a troubling shift for the government as it could be construed as a reversal of the policy of this country going back to at least the time right after World War II, when the government provided support for thousands of returning GIs and their families for home ownership. This, coupled with he affordability of the automobile and improved roads began the migration of families away from the inner city and to a land where individuals and families could create a positive mark for the future.
Aristotle wrote, "What belongs in common to the most people is accorded the least care: they take thought for their own things above all, and less about things common, or only so much as falls to each individually." And we all observe that homeowners take better care of their houses than renters do. That’s not because renters are bad people; it’s just that you’re more attentive to details when you stand to profit from your house’s rising value or to suffer if it deteriorates.

David Boaz wrote, "Just as home ownership creates responsible homeowners, widespread ownership of other assets creates responsible citizens. People who are owners feel more dignity, more pride, and more confidence. They have a stronger stake, not just in their own property, but in their community and their society".

As I have noted in a previous post, the concentration of power (at any level), is a threat to freedom. Our framers understood this. They designed a system of government based on a free society with many epicenters of power (including private enterprise and ownership) such that these would act as a balance against the temptations of tyranny that are often the ugly consequence of the concentration of power.
Home ownership is a fundamental tenant of the American Dream. Without respect and support of this noble striving, we put at risk not only an orderly society, but our hopes and dreams for a better future for ourselves and our children.

Our policies should responsibly nurture and support home ownership as fundamental to maintaining a free and orderly society.

Let Freedom Ring

1 comment:

C. Chris said...

Jim, I agree wholeheartedly! Home ownership gives you a stake not only in the care of your home, but in your community and country as well! If we become a nation of renters, we will wind up moving frequently, when things don't go particularly well "at home." How long do renters typically stay in one place? A year or two? And homeowners? Much longer, I'll bet. It is interesting to watch neighborhoods evolve, like my old one in San Diego. Who stays and who goes? As neighborhoods age, those who live there often do as well. Do you know that half of the people who are working today will retire in the next 10 years? Where will they live? Will they be renters or homeowners? If most are homeowners, will society become more polarized as the younger renters live elsewhere? All of these issues reflect the fact that after World War II, the returning vets all had similar hopes and aspirations for the American dream. There are few of us that share that dream today. Jim, you and I are becoming dinosaurs! Let's hope we are like the birds and the crock-o-diles, dinosaurs that adapt and thrive while the world changes around us!