By: Vicki Cox Golder
June 22, 2010
There's a reason homeownership is called the American Dream. U.S. history is replete with instances of government support of homeownership, from the Homestead Act during the Civil War to the G.I. Bill after World War II.
Today our country faces economic challenges not seen since the Great Depression. Questionable lending practices and excessive risk-taking in the mortgage-backed securities market certainly played a significant role, and subsequent declines in home prices and increases in foreclosure rates have led some to question the very value of homeownership itself.
There's no doubt we need to restructure entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and improve government regulation of the mortgage lending industry. However, owning a home has government support in this country because homeownership benefits individuals and families, strengthens our communities and is integral to our nation's economy.
The Federal Housing Administration, Federal Home Loan Banks, and Fannie Mae were all created during the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis our country ever faced. Lawmakers back then understood the value of homeownership in fostering communities, creating social stability and building wealth over the long term.
Academic studies have shown the positive social benefits of homeownership, including lower juvenile delinquency rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, and higher student achievement among children of homeowners versus that of non-owners of similar socioeconomic background.
And although some homeowners now owe more on their mortgages than they could sell them for in today's market, people who bought within their means with the intent to stay in their homes for more than a few years have the opportunity to build financial stability into the future. A fixed-rate mortgage might last 15 to 30 years; renting is forever.
FHA, the mortgage interest deduction, and Fannie's and Freddie's role in making long-term, fixed-rate mortgages available make homeownership more attainable for more Americans.
Homeownership isn't for everyone. But anyone who is able and willing to assume the responsibilities of owning a home should have the opportunity to pursue that dream, as people in this country have been doing for over 200 years.
Vicki Cox Golder is president of the National Association of Realtors.