Opinion / Politics

Becoming a “Nation of Renters” Threatens American Liberty

AMAC Exclusive by David P. Deavel

nationThis week, we celebrate Independence Day, and as we do, in many ways Americans need to fight for our independence again. Aided by business forces, many big cities across the country are tilting the playing field against single-family housing and home ownership in general. In so doing, they are pursuing a plan the Obama Administration started and the Biden Administration wants to complete. While some commentators, including both the “Great Reset” advocates and some economists, are cheering on America turning into a nation of renters, it’s important to remember why our Founders favored a nation of widely-distributed property ownership and why it matters to us today.

First, the cities. While many blue state cities have already gone in this direction, the city of Atlanta, under failed (and not running for re-election) Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, is one of the latest blue cities pushing full-speed ahead with policies designed to erode the suburbs and single-family home zoning. It’s all done in the holy names of “density” (good supposedly because it is environmentally better) and “equity” (because some neighborhoods with single-family zoning were in the past geared to keep black people out). But as with many such moves, this one will end in outcomes that are equally bad on all levels.

Former Georgia Republican state representative Bob Irvin sifted through the Atlanta Department of City Planning’s report in a recent column and summarized what city officials are planning to do: ban single-family zoning; reduce minimum lot sizes, and shorten the distances one is allowed to build from the street or the neighbors’ house; allow owners of houses to subdivide their own lots and put in Accessory Dwelling Units (the requirements of which will be loosened in order to have cheaper living spaces); end the minimums for parking spaces on commercial properties and for apartment and condo units. Irvin notes that all of this means the plan should be called “The Developer Feeding Frenzy Ordinance” since “[i]t will be rapacious developers, buying up a few lots, overbuilding them, changing that neighborhood forever, devaluing homeowners’ investments, and then moving on to the next neighborhood.”

Think that’s not true?  “A lot of things that would have been for-sale housing are going to be for-rent housing,” according to Josh Zegen of Madison Realty Capital in an April Wall Street Journal report on the more than 200 investment firms now buying up homes across the country. These firms, most famously Black Rock, are buying up entire neighborhoods, and paying top dollar to sellers—but leaving those sellers then unable to secure a new house as prices rise and houses often sell before they even officially hit the market. The corporate institutional investors may well be creating a housing price bubble that will not end well for those who do manage to get a home.

This isn’t just the goal of cities and private equity firms, however. The Biden Administration is touting as part of its “infrastructure” bill incentives for localities that get rid of all those “exclusionary zoning laws—like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.” While they claim that such measures have “inflated housing and construction costs and locked families out of areas with more opportunities,” they mention nothing about families actually owning properties.

Moreover, I wouldn’t believe the left’s supposed concern about costs of housing. In the very same proposals are all sorts of incentives for “retrofitting” houses with the latest environmental measures and use of union labor. While these might both be good in some ways, lessening costs is not going to be a part of the equation. As Joel Kotkin has observed, the very cities that have done all this retrofitting and density-increasing have had just as many problems with affordable housing as anybody else. That is because the incentive system in the infrastructure bill is only a bigger application of the one in President Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, reversed by President Trump. It’s just that the Biden-era one will target the suburbs more directly. A better solution would be loosening restrictions on building single-family homes, which, as even the Atlantic has observed, is where most black people want to live, as their demonstrated preferences show. “Today,” the magazine notes, citing a center-left Brookings Institution researcher, “the majority—52 percent— of African Americans in the nation’s top 100 metro areas live in the suburbs of those regions”—a fairly dramatic shift from the beginning of the millennium.

Minorities, like everybody else, still think that the American dream of one’s own home is desirable. Globalist thinkers such as Klaus Schwab, who predicts that by 2030 most people will “own nothing and be happy,” and economists such as Karl Smith, who thinks of houses merely as “investments” that are less liquid than other investments and keep people from moving around as much as they might otherwise, argue that we need to change all that. They tend to think only in terms of economic utility and take a rather naïve view of what widespread homeownership means to people and the country.

So as we celebrate Independence Day, it’s important to remember the deeper meaning of property. It is not just an “investment.” As political scientist Thomas West has written, one of the main policy aims of the founders was that “Government must encourage widespread ownership.” The reasons for their preference were several.

First, property owners are more likely to use their property to build wealth and benefit their communities and the nation. This has been affirmed by no less than Obama-era economic adviser Jason Furman, who “calculated that a single-family home contributes 2.5 times as much to the national GDP than an apartment unit.”

Second, property owners have a stake in liberty not simply to do what they want, but to build a society. Homeowners are generally more invested in their own neighborhoods, communities, and indeed their countries. James Ely cites the words of a historian of the Founding era: “Men were equal in that no one of them should be dependent on the will of another, and property made this independence possible. Americans in 1776 therefore concluded that they were naturally fit for republicanism precisely because they were ‘a people of property; almost every man is a freeholder.’”

Many people know that Jefferson’s use of the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was adapted from John Locke’s “life, liberty, and property.” Our modern advocates for the non-ownership society have been giving us a cheaper vision of happiness—liquidity! mobility! density!—in place of the one in which a family’s house is its castle.

To regenerate our understanding of independence this year, we should go back and reflect on the connection of property and happiness—preferably surrounded by friends and family in our own backyards, if we are lucky enough to have them.

 

David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.

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Bill on the Hill
2 months ago

It really got started under Hussein Obama, the man from Kenya…The current “embecile in chief, ” Comatose Joe is once again on the push for high rise Section 8 housing units brought to most if not all neighborhoods across America. The Democrats call this equity for all as do Russia, China & to a lesser degree, N. Korea. North of the 38° parallel isn’t quite there yet & anything is better than their current existence in either case…
Bringing the low income housing with the drugs & violence that typically comes with it to a neighborhood near you is precisely what these sycophantic Marxist driven Democrat elitists want for all of us… It will NEVER impact them as they sit in their respective White Ivory Towers like the corrupted oligarchs they have become…Does any of this sound familiar to anyone? It should, the Biden family knows these kind of people in a very personal way with respect to the millions upon millions of dollars they continue to rake in from those foreign oligarchs in Russia, Ukraine & China…
” A Nation Of Renters ” may be closer than many of us property owners can remotely realize…
Now I hear splattered all over the news, the Men in Black will be knocking on our doors checking on our vaccine status. Welcome to the NWO of never ending dystopia & brought to you by The Peoples Republic of China, i.e. the Communist Party of China…Chi of Beijing has now openly declared they own us, in other words, they have essentially declared war on America…
This leaves me with the $64,000.00 dollar question: What are we going to do about it? :~(
Bill on the Hill… :~)

Lee S McQuillen
2 months ago

Apparently home ownership is not an important factor in peoples’ lives. Boy, are the Obama and Biden people ignorant! Home Ownership creates an environment where people feel comfortable. It also provides stability. Moving all the time, living in cramped quarters with neighbors sharing a wall – none of that is good for a person’s well-being and health.

WindRunner80HD
2 months ago

Will this apply to all those elite rich and famous and those greedy selfish politicians some how I seriously doubt it…..rules for me but not for thee?

Joyce Wichman
2 months ago

Scr= = them

aluminum head
2 months ago

That is NOT going to matter. THere will be a 2nd civil war. It will be against the communists. Anti-fuh, BLM ( communist branch ), and the mainstream communists. Probably start in the metro areas which makes sense. Metro police need to resign or lateral to safer outlying communities. Watch. It will happen.

Texas Resister 64
2 months ago

Look into the Democrat-designed future and see dozens of demolitions like the one that just happened in Miami, as twenty-year-old towers crumble, dispossessing hundreds of families, or killing them, because of a desire to increase population density. God help us all.

Chris
2 months ago

It goes hand in hand with the attack on families, especially larger ones. Who is going to raise of family of 4 or 5 kids in an apartment? One more angle of attack on families to 1) “solve” the population “problem”, and 2) encourage dependence on the gov’t throughout one’s lifetime.

HocasPocas
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

Their vaccine will take care of decreasing the population. Causes sterility

Myrna S Wade
2 months ago

One of the rally cries of the last political season was “no private property by 2030.”
Climate fears are the excuse. Profit for a few is probably the real reason. Attacking zoning is the method. This seems like the wrong point in history to try to reach the marxist dream. But the people who like this, it is never too early to try. May they fail now and forever.

Elysummers
2 months ago
Reply to  Myrna S Wade

Most people down size when they retire, we bought a bigger house as an investment. Hang on to what you have. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Foreigners are now allowed to purchase property in the U.S. with the Chinese being the largest group. We need to crowd them out.

gi2468
2 months ago
Reply to  Elysummers

Chinese buying property & Bill Gates the largest farm land owner in the country. Sounds like a disaster coming soon.

DebS
2 months ago
Reply to  Elysummers

Yes, foreigners are buying up the properties, in my neighborhood in New Jersey, it’s the Russians. They buy up houses, rehab them and then flip them for a good sale price.

Honey
2 months ago

Worst administration in American history and getting worse by the day.

aluminum head
2 months ago
Reply to  Honey

Don’t forget the o-boingo admin. He deserves retribution for all the misery and hate he created. God willing he will soon die a slow but painful death.

HocasPocas
2 months ago
Reply to  aluminum head

Then what will biden do? He won’t have a master giving him direction

Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Like to see a Rental Policy where renters can use funds to Lease a Home vs price for a apt or condo say in Bay Area No CA alone rates Use Incentives for.
Tier rental rates
Rates toward Home or Condo?
More can be done

Neil Schmidt
2 months ago

I have no idea what you are saying! WHAT “rental policy?” The government’s? What do you mean by “Tier rental rates?” What do you mean “Rates toward Home or Condo?” The free market system allows freedom of choice in whether a renter wants to live in a home, an apartment or condo.

Bryant
2 months ago

It is Obama, it always has been. Although he was too stupid to come up with a plan himself he initiated it at the request and assistance of big Chinese corporations and banks which are well hidden under American titles. The ultimate goal is to take away American’s individualism and to control mass population as they do in their satanical communistic country.

PaulE
2 months ago

First of all, the article is fundamentally incorrect in that the intent of the Obama plan (and now also the Biden plan) is NOT limited to cities. The intent of the Obama plan is to eliminate ALL local zoning laws across the entire country, under false claims of disparate racial impact, so that the federal government can transform the suburbs and rural areas, at will, to look like the big cities in terms of high rise housing, much smaller, expensive lot sizes and forced denser housing units, and more mixed use residential / commercial areas. All of which is designed to transform the country into one, large, sprawling city scape like New York City or Los Angeles. That is what the federal government tried to do to Westchester County, New York as a pilot program under the Obama administration. Fortunately, that was shutdown by President Trump. Well now a Democrat is back in charge in the White House, so they dusting off the old plans.

We know what the largest American cities also have in common and that is Democrat rule. Which is the real driving motivation behind this push by the Democrats. Wipe out the enclaves of Republican voters by importing thousands of low income Democrat voters to live in new, sprawling high rise federal projects built next to existing single family homes and what you’ll get is sea to shining sea of urban blight overseen by Democrats running the whole show. Turn everywhere in the U.S. into a Democrat run [email protected] hole. The concept of suburbs, rural areas or and for that matter any place in America that doesn’t look and feel like NYC or downtown LA, under the Democrat plan, would be a distant memory.

David
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

All you have said is sadly very true, and this is yet more ammunition for our hearts and minds to be ever vigilant in watching what the leftist Democrats (And secretly The RINO’s) are attempting to force upon all of us.Thus transforming each of our states into nightmarish living.

Grace
2 months ago
Reply to  David

Until the Republican leadership divests the party of the RINO’s the Republican party will never advance nor defeat the Democrats, who use the Republican RINO’s against us.It’s difficult enough when the main stream cable media and print media are fully dedicated to the Marxist message, the destruction of the nuclear family, after birth abortion on demand, Marxist doctrine in our schools, open borders, higher taxes and devaluing our currency and Big Brother urging Democrats to snitch on their friends, commie style. Home ownership in communist, Socialist, Marxist countries is rare. Having been to Russia and seen the dismal small spaces allotted to the average citizen. Visiting areas where hardly anyone owns a car and all are dependent on antiquated buss systems. Is that what you socialists want for America? Mediocrity forever? Have any of you really looked beyond the curtain? Poland, Hungary and now Sweden have broken free of the chains of Global socialism pushed by the elites of the world. If the left can get rid of the middle class they will rule forever. The middle class is the backbone of a free country.

David
2 months ago
Reply to  Grace

That is so very true.
I too have visited Russia some years back. I went to St. Petersburg and Moscow, but I also ventured to a small museum in a small town that I got to by train while I visited Moscow.
I was very surprised to see Russia having the most beautifully old world decorated subway system, but people are packed in extremely tight during their rush hour times, which nods to your comment about relying on only buses for their transportation needs.
I was also surprised by the very meager means of living that many have because of their country’s reign over how they live.
It was good to get outside of their major city to see some of their countryside and how others live there too.
I think people outside of the major cities have better living conditions because they are not so jam packed in like they are in the cities, but I may be wrong about that.
What are your thoughts upon that Grace?

gi2468
2 months ago
Reply to  Grace

My thoughts exactly, Grace. We know the democrats are the enemy, but I am afraid too many republicans do not realize how dangerous the RINO’s are to the republican party. It should have been clear when members of the republican party did not support President Trump. That showed how deep the swamp is & it is not only democrats, but many republicans in congress also. People forget that the first 2 years of Trump presidency, we controlled both houses of congress, yet Trump could not get many things done that he wanted to. That was solely the fault of never-Trumpers & RINO’s because Trump was not & is not part of the old boy establishment. Republican voters need to wake up before it is too late.

Bill on the Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  gi2468

Grace, David, gi2468 & PaulE… All of you have put your finger on it.
We essentially need a new government formed from the ground up because of the decades long corruption from within we are now faced with…All of us share some responsibility here for blindly trusting our elected officials over many decades now…The ugly head of corruption within our own gov’t has risen to heights we would have never thought possible, yet here we are…
Bill on the Hill… :~)

HocasPocas
2 months ago
Reply to  Grace

Christians are the backbone of a free country

Gary Cline
2 months ago
Reply to  PaulE

Paul, it is called the UN’s Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030 as well as the World Economic Forum’s The Great Reset. For over 3 decades the UN has been pressing their agendas for a one world socialist government. In these documents and others is the goal of abolishing personal property. They also plan to move non-essential people from the rural areas into the high rise apartments they want to build in the suburbs. Open borders is another goal as is redistribution of wealth at the nation level, read that as the Paris Climate Accord.

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