Time Magazine drives a stake into the American Dream; the case against homeowning

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  • Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - 09:49am



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    Time Magazine drives a stake into the American Dream; the case against homeowning

Time Magazine drives a stake into the American Dream
Waking up America? The Case Against Homeowning


In its Sept. 27th issue, Time Magazine makes the case against Homeownership.  It is about time – haha.

They begin:
“Homeownership has let Americans down.  For generations people believed that owning a home was an axiomatic good.  Political leaders hammered home the point.” Then, they mention the views of Presidents Hoover, FDR, the Bush adminsitration, and finish, claiming: “A house with a front lawn, and a picket fence wasn’t just a nice place to live or a risk-free investment; it was the way to transform a nation… No wonder leaders of all political stripes wanted to spend more than $100 billion a year on subsidies and tax breaks to encourage people to buy.”

The article shows a chart, entitled “Hitting the Ceiling”
“Homeownership wasn’t always the norm. It rose steadily in the postwar era – until the crash.”  From 46.5% of homes being occupied by owner-occupiers in 1900, it moved sideways to down through the Great Depression, and then started shooting during and up after WW II.   The peak came about 2005, at the peak of the Housing bubble, when it hit a record 69.2%.  The excesses of credit, enthusiasm, and malinvestment that were required to get it there are going to take many years to unwind.


  • Sat, Sep 18, 2010 - 10:27am

    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Time Magazine drives a stake into the American Dream; …


“By idealising the act of buying a house, Americans have ignored the downside.”

Now they are living it (in the downside of the American Dream, which has become a nightmare for many people):

+ Huge mortgages, and an oversupply of housing
+ A broken economy, which had been reliant on filling up over-large homes wth consumer items
+ Neighhoods full of people who do not know each other and take no interest in others’ welfare
+ Long commutes, and a dangerous addiction to foreign oil
+ The hollowing out of cities, leaving people in an ugly and degraded environment

One of America’s “newest homeowners” was said not to care about any of the bigger historical issues, but “what she cares about is being able to paint her daughter’s room purple without asking anyone’s permission… the sacrifices are worth it since”:

“It’s amazing. We can do whatever we want. We can plant a garden. We can sit outside and have music and a cookout. We can have a normal and nice life.”

But this freedom comes in a small way, while requiring a bigger loss of freedom all around: More debts, longer commutes, and the awesome ultimately-impoverishing addiction to oil. Are Americans finally waking up to the bigger costs imbedded in that American suburban dream? Perhaps. Even Time Magazine sees the issue (even though their article does not talk about “stalking the suburbs”, as I do), they speak of:

“The Joys of renting”, and ask: “As homeownership loses its luster, could urban areas – hotbeds of renting -gain in popularity?”

They also speak of the damage done by the mortgage interest deduction, which helped to encourage people to buy more home than they needed, to get a bigger deduction, and how the same sort of deduction was gotten rid of in the UK years ago.

Ownership Worldwide – Percentage of homes that are owner-occupied

Spain …….. : 89.1%
Italy ………. : 81.7%
U.K. ……….. : 73.3%
Canada …… : 68.4%
Australia …. : 68.3%
U.S. ……….. : 67.8%
Japan ……… : 61.1%
Germany …. : 55.6%
Switzerland . : 34.6%

The article speaks of the “dark side” of homeownership. Enabling people to buy larger and larger homes in teh housing bubble, led to dangerouis malinvestments, but while it was happening, it allowed people to feel better and deny the crumbling state of the US economy, “Americans kept spending away and felt richer than they really were.”

Well, the days of reckoning have arrived, and the fictituous wealth, and the unrealistic dreams and attitudes than came with them are now melting away.

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