Homeownership and Suburban Sprawl

(Photo: Roger Wollstadt)

A new paper from economist (and city-loverEd Glaeser argues in favor of a reevaluation of government policies towards homeownership.  The abstract:

The most fundamental fact about rental housing in the United States is that rental units are overwhelmingly in multifamily structures. This fact surely reflects the agency problems associated with renting single-family dwellings, and it should influence all discussions of rental housing policy. Policies that encourage homeowning are implicitly encouraging people to move away from higher density living; policies that discourage renting are implicitly discouraging multifamily buildings. Two major distortions shape the rental housing market, both of which are created by the public sector. Federal pro-homeownership policies, such as the home mortgage interest deduction, weaken the rental market and the cities where rental markets thrive. Local policies that discourage tall buildings likewise ensure that Americans have fewer rental options. The economic vitality of cities and the environmental consequences of large suburban homes with long commutes both support arguments for reducing these distortions.

Glaeser concludes by arguing in favor of “slowly lowering the cap on the interest deduction” in order to discourage the exodus to the “sprawling suburbs.”

(HT: Free Exchange)

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  1. Fitty Stim says:

    Where do condominiums fit into this picture?

    They are, naturally, in multi-family buildings but also benefit from the mortgage interest deduction.

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    • SuburbanDad says:

      Good point Fitty. Condos are common in many suburbs. They allow home ownership, and don’t contribute to the “sprawl” some people dislike. They are often clustered near commuter rail lines.

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