Cashisking points out this article in the Wall Street Journal about the history of the North American dream of home ownership and how it’s changed over time.
Until the early 20th century, holding a mortgage came with a stigma. You were a debtor, and chronic indebtedness was a problem to be avoided like too much drinking or gambling. The four words “keep out of debt” or “pay as you go” appeared in countless advice books. As the YMCA told its young charges, “If you can’t pay, don’t buy. Go without. Keep on going without.” Because of that, many middle-class Americans—even those with a taste for single-family houses—rented. Home Sweet Home didn’t lose its sweetness because someone else held the title.
The article goes on to cover changes in government policy and lending, from the depression up to the recent housing boom and bust in the US.
Like the US, the Canadian government has policies to encourage home ownership (via the CMHC) based on the assumption that home ownership is good for society, but is it? Do you as an owner or renter feel that there is a fundamental difference between the two choices? Are owners more responsible and more involved in their community? On the flipside, are renters with a higher disposable income more beneficial to a local economy?
The WSJ article ends with an interesting note on the origins of the ‘American Dream’ quote:
James Truslow Adams, the historian who coined the phrase “the American dream,” one that he defined as “a better, richer, and happier life for all our citizens of every rank” also offered a prescient commentary in the midst of the Great Depression. “That dream,” he wrote in 1933, “has always meant more than the accumulation of material goods.” Home should be a place to build a household and a life, a respite from the heartless world, not a pot of gold.