Sunday, December 16, 2007

To Have A Home

Lance Freeman, assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University, recently commented on home ownership amongst minorities in our country.
Home ownership grew among white middle-class families after World War II when access to credit and government programs made buying houses affordable. Black families were largely left out because of discrimination, and the effects are still being felt today.

I was reminded of this reading an article called Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth by Henry Louis Gates in the NYT. He noted,

I have been studying the family trees of 20 successful African-Americans, people in fields ranging from entertainment and sports (Oprah Winfrey, the track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee) to space travel and medicine (the astronaut Mae Jemison and Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon). And I’ve seen an astonishing pattern: 15 of the 20 descend from at least one line of former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920 — a time when only 25 percent of all African-American families owned property.

Unfortunately, blacks were still facing the full effects of racism in our country in the periods after both World Wars, times in our country's history when home ownership grew rapidly. Thus, a large proportion of their population was left out of this wave.

Home ownership is key to advancing in society today. The ability to tap equity in their home allows the owner to put the next generation through college and into their own home. There is a direct correlation between parents who own a home and children who attend college. Having a college degree enables people to have better jobs and perpetuates the cycle of success. This is evidenced by the information documented by Gates. As Gates says,
People who own property feel a sense of ownership in their future and their society. They study, save, work, strive and vote. And people trapped in a culture of tenancy do not.

I would say that based on this, initiatives to provide the opportunity for people in poverty to move towards home ownership are key. Would it make sense to turn Section 8 into some sort of rent-to-own program? Would it be more worthwhile to give people a home rather than paying their rent for years on end?


Carl Petersen said...

Corellation or Causation... that is the question.
I believe that those who have a vision for their and their family's future will strive toward home ownership and acheive it, even by overcoming great obstacles. It is the lessons learned in that tenacious striving and passed on to offspring that propells the next generation to greatness. And it is generations of being told you are property and have no value and no future and are useless and stupid and won't achieve anything, and then listening to that voice and passing it on that keeps offspring from acheiving much. If a home is given to someone who does not value their or their family's future, and who does not understand/practice investing (patience, discipline, deferred gratification), I believe the odds will still be against their offspring. People need to be encouraged to overcome whatever the obstacle-of-the-day is and given a vision of a better future. Money and possessions solve nothing... they just make the desires of the heart more readily attainable, no matter if the desires are good or bad.

Westy said...

If a home is given to someone who does not value their or their family's future, and who does not understand/practice investing ...
Yes, but what if there are some families it would help? What percent success would make it worth it? I have to think it would be fairly low.
I agree, only a correlation has been shown. But at the very least, it shows the power of family in influencing a child's success.