December 16, 2004

Home is Where the Heart Is

New Mother Jones article, by me, on how Bush's policies to promote homeownership aren't all they're cracked up to be. It's not the most… timely article. (It was written about three weeks ago, but it wasn't timely then, either.) But this stuff is important, I think, and not very well noticed. "Homeownership" is almost universally considered an unalloyed good when, really, it's not.

Side note: I stayed away from current, pressing questions about housing bubbles and whether prices will rise or fall, mainly because it's hard to figure out how this stuff affects low-income homebuyers. What is clear is that housing prices are rising much, much faster than median area income in the lowest income bracket. A steep price decline would be good for affordability, but steep price declines are pretty rare in the absence of sharply concentrated job losses—at which point low-income families have other problems. A steep price decline in a given area also forces a lot of homeowners to sell their homes and flood the market, which pretty much nixes revitalization efforts in urban communities. So I don't know.

Another thing to note, I think, is that the age distribution in America will soon start tilting the markets towards rentals—mainly because the growing legions of immigrants and young adults skew towards renting. That's not good news for the large percent of low-income families who can't buy homes under even the most liberal of underwriting standards. So this means that we really, really should be focusing more and more on strengthening rental-assistance programs (and increasing the supply of affordable homes). But that's not what Bush wants at all.

Anyways, fun topic to unleash the wonk within.
-- Brad Plumer 2:00 PM || ||