Does owning a house make us worse people?


More … than 65% of Americans own their homes. While American culture often celebrates homeownership, Jerusalem Demsas, political reporter at Vox, writing that it can “bring out the worst in you.” Demsas spoke about the phenomenon with Amy Scott of Marketplace. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Amy Scott: So what do you mean when you say homeownership can bring out the worst in people?

Demsas of Jerusalem: Yes, I want to be specific here, because it is certainly not a universal phenomenon. But homeownership, as it exists in the United States, is based on scarcity. And when you have people who live in countries like the United States, where retirement is really expensive, medical bills are really expensive, and then you tell them that the only way for them to build wealth is to own it. a home, then you’re going to create a lot of trouble if they feel that their home’s value might be at risk. And often what we see is that people who buy their own homes start to oppose policies that are really good for the whole neighborhood – important public transportation that is helpful in combating the problem. climate change and helping people get around, opposing affordable housing, even opposing COVID-19 testing centers over the past year. And it is really an interesting phenomenon to observe.

Affordable housing and classism and racism

Scott: When people oppose affordable housing projects or even just more density in their neighborhoods, you often hear concerns about things like traffic and parking. But there is also often explicit racism and classism.

Demsas: Yeah, sure. Often it is very self-explanatory. You know, there are many times documented where people talk about “People are going to turn my neighborhood into a ghetto if you allow denser housing,” or this idea that we don’t want that specific type of person living here. A lot of times people, you know, say something like, you know, “neighborhood character”. And the point is, if you prevent people from living in your neighborhood because they earn a certain amount of money, you inherently oppose the class and racial diversity in your area.

Scott: What do we know about the impact of affordable housing on property values? Are there any real concerns when people oppose these projects?

The cost of not increasing the density

Demsas: It’s a complicated subject, because it really depends on how the policy is implemented. If, you know, you could push a button tomorrow and all of a sudden you tripled the number of homes in the Bay Area, you’d definitely see a drop in rents, and you’d probably see a drop in property values. . But in reality, that’s not how everything works, right? Maybe what’s going on is someone’s proposing to build a 200-unit apartment building in a downtown area or maybe they’re saying they want, you know, a multiplex of 10 units in a suburban area, things like that. There isn’t a lot of evidence that this affects the value of anyone’s property.

And there’s actually growing evidence that when you increase the area – when you allow someone to build duplexes or triplexes on that land – you can actually increase the value of the property, because what you tell the developers is that you can actually make more money out of this land. But we know that right now there is a huge economic cost to not increasing density. We know it cuts wages by up to $ 10,000 a year for the average worker. We know this reduced overall economic growth by about 36%, according to one estimate. These are things that really affect people’s lives when you tell them your salary is cut by $ 10,000 a year, that’s, you know, a quarter of their income. So this is a very big problem.

Yes in my backyard

Scott: There seems to be a growing awareness of some of these issues with cities like Charlotte, Minneapolis, Portland getting set to ban single-family zoning and the rise of so-called YIMBYs, ‘yes in my garden.’ Are you hopeful?

Demsas: Yeah, I mean, I think what we’re seeing right now is that, you know, for a long time the affordability crisis in America was limited to low income people. But what we’ve seen over the last few decades is that employment opportunities have really concentrated in a few cities. And with that, we have seen that housing affordability has exploded. And it’s not just low-income people who are feeling the pressure. So from that, you saw a lot more political action coming out of it. And this is really, I think, a reflection of the worsening of the problem and the way that part of the opposition to these laws has organized itself as well.


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