A Shift Away from Home Ownership?

by Jim Hagen
Jefferson County

July 22, 2010

Many red-flag alerts and chronicles of bureaucratic hubris have crossed these wires, but a Washington Post article printed in yesterday's Seattle Times ("Next up: a shift away from home ownership?") may point to the ultimate end run around the cornerstone of our liberty. The gist of the article is that upon passage of the financial overhaul bill, the president will next turn attention to the U.S housing market. Quoting extensively from senior HUD official Raphael Bostic, a "leading scholar on home ownership," the future trend in housing could see renting as a way to avoid another collapse in the market. Among the choice quotes:

In previous eras, we haven't seen people question whether homeownership was the right decision. It was just assumed that's where you want to go. You're not going to hear us say that."

Bostic added that owning a home has a lot of value but, what we've seen in there last four years is that there really is an underside to home ownership.

Further quoting the article itself, "The administration's narrower view of who should own a home and what the government should do to support them could have major implications for the economy as well as borrowers. Broadly, the administration way wind down some government backing for home loans but increase focus on affordable rentals." Consequences would mean higher down payments and interest rates on loans and more barriers for low-income people a less homeownership overall.

HUD is currently looking at "seven broad questions addressing the future of housing." It is notable that these options are being investigated to "gradually unwind the massive government programs supporting homeowners and restore the traditional role of the private sector." Yet the administration official quoted earlier contradicts what the future role of the private sector will be. It is interesting that the government created Fanny and Freddie, which were mostly responsible for the housing collapse, and that both were excluded from the financial overhaul bill. A legitimate question is why the government ever became so involved in home ownership in the first place and if the opportunity born out of this "crisis" isn't to deliberately undercut property ownership. Who needs buffers and wildlife corridors when private land management becomes moot?

Granted, this is a reporter connecting the dots, but considering the overall shift in attitudes toward private property over the last 40 years it would be foolhardy to ignore the implications presented by this possibility. Clearly, the current administration is using the worthy goal of stabilizing the financial crisis to mask all sorts of freedom and liberty undertows. Images of Leige Lords in green tights and serfs mulling around the commons send me off to work this foggy morning.