Homeownership is a Fundamental Part of the American Dream

Many of you have expressed alarm about the swirl of negative stories around homeownership. Barbara Kiviat at Time magazine tells us that “homeownership has let us down.”

Robert J. Samuelson, the Washington Post and Newsweek columnist, says, “The relentless promotion of homeownership as the embodiment of the American dream has outlived its usefulness.”

Fortune magazine reporter Nin-Hai Tseng writes about the “rise of the renting class.”

It’s natural that we’re seeing such articles during these uncertain economic times, and it would be simplistic to dismiss these writers as out of hand. If you read beyond their opening salvos, you find comments that can’t be argued with—too many Americans got in over their heads, buying a home they couldn’t afford or using their home equity to fund a lifestyle they couldn’t sustain. Others fell victim to predatory lending practices or recessionary job cuts.

Where I part ways with these writers is in their implicit or explicit diminishment of the value of homeownership. Homeownership has long been a fundamental part of the American dream, and it will continue to be so long after today’s economic troubles are behind us.

In fact, the desire for a home is the dream of people everywhere. To have a home of one’s own is to have a place of safety and security for ourselves and our children, a place to celebrate our traditions and to welcome friends.

I’m also deeply concerned about the way these articles—again, implicitly or explicitly—chip away at our nation’s longstanding policy of encouraging home buying through incentives such as the mortgage interest deduction.

Research has consistently shown the long-term benefits of homeownership to our communities and the country. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® recently released a review of academic studies pertaining to homeownership. Those studies show, among other things, a positive correlation with self-esteem, educational achievement, civic participation, and crime prevention.

We have made progress at getting our story across. Articles and editorials in USA Today, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have presented the long-term benefits of owning.

Certainly, there are many people who are suffering because housing took such a sharp downward turn.

As REALTORS®, we need to do everything in our power to help. That’s why NAR is facilitating REALTOR® involvement in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. It’s why we have provided more than $2.5 million in grants to state and local associations through our Foreclosure Prevention and Response Program.

We need to join together in creating a vision for a new American dream—one that emphasizes responsible, long-term homeownership as means of achieving social and financial well-being.