The United States has long been a country that values home ownership. It is often argued that home ownership fosters the development of a citizenry that places more emphasis on community involvement and betterment. This widespread belief has produced relatively high rates of home ownership (65% of Americans own their homes). Despite these benefits the current system of subsidies and tax deductions that encourage home ownership have the unfortunate consequence of also promoting suburban sprawl with very detrimental environmental consequences.
Let’s be clear an end to the ownership society is not necessary to reverse these negative consequences. It’s a change in the type of housing that we produce that is essential. As the country’s population shoots to an estimated 400 million by 2050 we’re going to have to adopt more compact and energy efficient forms of housing and development if we hope to meet RF targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving our region’s natural beauty. Our current model is simply unsustainable.
Over at Greater Greater Washington Ken Archer floats the idea of altering the mortgage tax deduction as a way to reduce sprawling development. Likewise columnist Neal Pierce agrees that it’s time for us to reconsider the type of housing and land use that has been dominant for much of the past fifty years. However as a local example in Herndon shows changes in familiar housing patterns are not always welcomed by the public.