On November 30th, the New York Times ran a lead editorial about homeownership, an editorial with which I have some misgivings. For that reason, I sent off a letter to the editor of the Times which ultimately didn’t get printed. I am inserting both a link to the original article below as well as my response. Again I note that I think homeownership can be a wonderful blessing, but encourage everyone to think of it first and foremost as a lifestyle choice and not as an investment.
Here is the link to the Times editorial and what follows is my response.
To: The New York Times
Date: November 30, 2014
If, as the Times argues, homeownership is a source of wealth creation, there are two aspects of historic American government policy that have materially contributed to that outcome. First, it is only with mortgage debt that the average American is allowed to attain leverage as high as 95%. In most cases, government policy limits our ability to borrow far more significantly. Imagine if a citizen was able to get leverage of this sort on his savings or other investments. Yet of far greater consequence is the mortgage interest deduction. Through that tax break, the federal government provides more subsidy (indirect perhaps, but still subsidy) to homeowners than to any other class of citizens, including the nation’s poor.
As a builder of both homes and rental apartments, I am certainly in favor of homeownership, when it is appropriate. I just believe that it is intellectually dishonest to ignore the fact that our government has discriminated against an entire class of our citizens—those who rent homes—in making the argument in favor of the beneficiaries of those government policies. That’s like hobbling all but one of the horses in a race and then praising the winner.
Homeownership is a wonderful lifestyle choice, appropriate for those times when our lives have some semblance of stability and predictability. Renting however is neither something we should preach against nor discriminate against with government policy.
Thomas S. Bozzuto
Chairman and CEO
The Bozzuto Group