The Homeownership Gap
Homeownership is often seen as an integral part of the American dream, and encouraging homeownership has historically been an important feature of U.S.
public policy. In 1995, the rate of homeownership in the United States began a steep rise and between 2004 and 2006, peaked at 69 percent.
The last three years, however, have seen a marked reversal of this trend. As the housing boom collapsed and the recession fueled a sharp rise in unemployment, the homeownership rate fell to 67.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009—its most recent reading and a reversion to its second-quarter 2000 level. Strikingly, the ongoing decline in the homeownership rate is approaching in magnitude the 2.3 percentage point slide observed in the early 1980s.
Recognition that property ownership carries with it particular interests is as old
as the republic itself. In Federalist 10, James Madison writes, “Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination.”
Still, although dissenting views exist, the preponderance of
research evidence at this point upholds the social benefits of
homeownership. And continuing public support for homeownership makes clear that policymakers regard the advantages for neighborhoods and communities as substantial.