home own vs. rent

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Dec 15 20:13:08 CST 2000

[ed:  Thanks to  Helen, Alison, and Allegra for the interesting discussion 
around James' home ownership, rental, and MHA housing issue.]


I agree with you.  I think that homeownership does create avenues for equity
development and security.  Although it is a class-based dream in the US.
Additionally, the idea of owning a "home" has socio-spatial implications and
is culture bound. For some, it is not desired and can have terrible
ramifications in terms of zoning and code issues when resources are not
available.  As example we recently had a First Nations person here
imprisoned for 90 days due to failure to paint and remove a car from the
front of the yard.  No one though about how he was raising 6 children and
that his wife had recently lost a long battle to cancer.  I honestly have
not read articles which critique the focus on homeownership, although I
think that a balance is needed.  For many this will never be a reality and
can have unintended consequences.

As a researcher and practitioner who has worked with people we call
"homeless", I think that these issues are important to discuss. I would
appreciate more ideas or comments.

Helen P. Hartnett, PhD
School of Social Welfare
University of Kansas


From: "Alison Cordero" <acordero at stnicksnpc.com>


The limited equity coops formed (mostly with the help of community
organizers) from City Owned Buildings in NYC thru the Tenant Interim Lease
and Community Management Program  are another example. We have a high
concentration (over 90) in this Community Board in Brooklyn (CB#1-
Williamsburg/Greenpoint); some are more sucessful than others and we are now
struggling with issues of how to keep them affordable and/or how to maintain
them on rents affordable to low income people.

Susan Sagaert at CUNY did an extensive study of these coops (and other
disposition programs) for the Task Force on City Owned Housing. Some of the
results are in her essays included in:

The Hidden History of Housing Cooperatives (UCLA)

ISBN: 1-885641-11-7
Paper bound, 314 pages, 5" x 8"
Released December 1995 by the Center for Cooperatives
$35.00 (Bulk order and wholesale discounts available)

Alison Cordero
St. Nicholas NPC
11 Catherine St.
Brooklyn NY 11211
(718)388-5454 x 125
fax (718)486-5982

One of Susan Saegerts essays on low-income coops in NY is also on
the web @

Alison Cordero
St. Nicholas NPC
11 Catherine St.
Brooklyn NY 11211
(718)388-5454 x 125
fax (718)486-5982


Dear James:

I agree with you that more research needs to be done on the costs, be they
economic or social, of homeownership for low income people.  To my
knowledge, little has been done in this area, but I do know of one
publication that begins to examine the issue.  The Social Benefits and Costs
of Homeownership by William M. Rohe, George McCarthy and Shannon Van Zandt
is Working Paper No. 00-01 published by the Research Institute for Housing
America.   In this paper the authors argue that while there are many
positive social impact of homeownership, insufficient research has been done
to measure the costs, particularly as experienced by low income people.
These include limited mobility, making it difficult to move in search of
better employment, or the effects of unexpected costs, such as medical bills
on one's ability to make payments.  The authors point out that defaulting on
a mortgage is far more serious than breaking a lease and can lead to
psychological stress.
Rohe has written other journal articles on the topic and I believe the next
working paper on the economic benefits and costs will be published shortly.

Best Regards,

Allegra Calder
Research Assistant, Land Markets Program
Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
113 Brattle Street
Cambridge MA 02138-3400
617/661-3016 x154
617/661-7235 fax

[ed:  Allan David Heskin's book is "The Struggle for Community," and my 
book is "Defending Community."  Thanks to Pamela Silberman 
<spam at utahissues.org> for reminding me I forgot to include the 
references.  One of the other books that talks about the political 
complications of home ownership is John Emmeus Davis "Contested Ground."]

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