The Case For Rentals Over Homeownership

Richard Florida, chronicler of societal trends and Twitter addict (follow him at your peril), believes that there is a strong case to be made that America should shift somewhat away from homeownership and toward more rentals, perhaps achieving a 50-50 balance between the two.

In the video below, he points out that homeownership has been massively subsidized, to the extent that we now have an eight-year surplus of housing on the market for sale to owner-occupants. He believes that we need to ‘reinvent rental’ into a more robust and flexible system.

As I pointed out at my blog, I’m not entirely sure I agree with the premise, by the way. True, homeownership is subsidized, but in my experience owner-occupiers are frequently willing to invest in a property beyond what landlords do, to the benefit of neighborhood and place. The subsidy may, in fact, be in the public interest. Moreover, while many cite the mortgage interest deduction as a cause of sprawl, that deduction is just as available to those who buy in cities and walkable suburbs. (It is also worth pointing out that those who invest in rental properties have the benefit of a range of business deductions and subsidies not available to ordinary homeowners.)

But RF’s point of view is interesting nonetheless. Check it out:

Kaid Benfield is director for sustainable communities and smart growth at The Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC. He has his own blog on land development and community issues and enjoys contributing here, too, since there is so much common ground.


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