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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should Home-Ownership be Discouraged?

Richard Green, in a debate at The Economist on home ownership:

The opposition's closing remarks Sep 26th 2012, by Richard K. Green: In his comments, Ed Glaeser makes a point that I wholeheartedly agree with: the American system of housing subsidies makes little sense. The largest housing subsidy, the mortgage interest deduction,... does little to help those at the margin of home-owning...
Nevertheless, I think Mr Glaeser sells his own study short when he argues that the civic connections established through home-owning are not very important. Home-owning can help countries overcome legacies in which property owners have exploited property users—legacies that include the hacienda system in Latin America and the Philippines, and sharecropping and company towns in America. There are important links between ownership, personal independence and the sense of control, as well as the ability to be socially mobile.
One could argue that we in America engaged in an experiment in discouraging home-ownership for ... minorities in general and African-Americans in particular. For many years, real-estate agents and lenders in America discriminated against minorities who tried to purchase houses, and American housing finance policy discriminated against African-American and central city neighborhoods. ... Hence the inability of African-Americans to own homes was very much the result of policies that targeted African-Americans.
One of the upshots of this is that the home-ownership rate among African Americans, at 46%, is considerably lower than it is for white Americans, at 71%. Controls for wealth, income and demographics are not sufficient to explain the gap. And ... African-Americans continue to get loans at less favorable terms than others.
But does any of this matter? ...—home equity explains the likelihood that children will complete college better than any other type of asset... It seems that a lack of access to owner-occupied housing has prevented African-Americans' access to a college degree. ... Educational attainment is crucial to social mobility. ... This is both economically and socially destructive.

The entire debate is here.

    Posted by on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 07:37 PM in Economics, Housing | Permalink  Comments (43)


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