Homeownership Is Still Part of the American Dream

June 7, 2013

In recent years a powerful current of academic, business and political opinion has suggested the demise of the American dream of homeownership. The basis for this conclusion rests upon a series of demographic, economic and environmental assumptions that, it is widely suggested, make the single-family house and homeownership increasingly irrelevant for most Americans, says Joel Kotkin, executive editor of New Geography.

  • These opinions (referred to as "retro-urbanist") gained public credence with the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007.
  • The widespread media reports of foreclosed housing in suburban tracts, particularly in the exurban reaches of major metropolitan areas, led to widespread reports of the "death of suburbia."
  • Despite this growing "consensus" about the future of housing and homeownership, long-term demographic trends analysis and consumer preferences suggest that the "dream," although often deferred, remains relevant.

These trends are notable in the three key demographic groups that will largely define the American future: aging boomers; immigrants; and the emerging millennial generation.

This does not mean that suburbia or home construction patterns will not change in the coming decades, but there has been little consideration of the profound economic and social benefits of both homeownership and low to medium density living. These include:

  • On the economic side, the huge impact on employment from home construction and the ancillary industries associated with household upkeep and improvement.
  • Lower-density, homeowner-oriented communities are more socially cohesive in terms of volunteerism, neighborly relations and church attendance than denser, renter-oriented communities.
  • Suburban and lower density urban neighborhoods are particularly critical for the growth of families and the raising of children.

The dream is not at all dead, but is simply evolving. America's tradition of property ownership and the primacy of the family have constituted a critical aspect of our society since before the nation's founding. It needs to remain so in the decades ahead if the country is to prove true to the aspirations and the sustainability of its people.

Source: Joel Kotkin, "Retrofitting the Dream: Housing in the 21st Century, A New Report," New Geography, June 3, 2013.

 

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