some have been advocating that the government stop subsidizing home ownership, arguing that it locks people to a place, and when the economy goes sour people need the flexibility to go where the jobs are. I would say that we need to take it farther and that, in addition to allowing the unemployed to move to work, encourage the employed to move closer to work.
Pointing out that we currently have a lot of tax incentives that encourage home ownership — and along with those incentives, the unpleasant effects of sprawl and long commutes — David argues for public policies that encourage renting apartments, along with tax incentives for living near workplaces.
With links to related articles from The Atlantic, NPR, and other outlets, David's post's a very thought-provoking read. The comment stream on his post’s interesting too; I especially enjoyed reading Emily’s two cents:
Now back to the issue of rent being a “waste” of money. How is it a waste to exchange money for the right to live somewhere? My rent is reasonable, and renting enables me to live in a city center, near my job, great restaurants, public transportation, etc. That’s all value added for me, since purchasing a home right now would mean moving to the suburbs, driving more, and seeing my community of friends less. Add in the money I save by renting (and sharing my apartment with a friend), and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted anything. That extra money is used for my retirement fund, vacations, entertainment, etc. So renting helps increase my long-term financial stability while also increasing my quality of life.
I, too, am a renter in a big city, and love that I'm able to walk to my friends' places and bike to the beach. If I wanted to own a house, I'd have to give up these great amenities — and my social life and general happiness level would suffer because of it. And while my commute wouldn't be affected by a move since I work at home, I think this huge time-sucking issue should be one that people consider much more seriously before plunking down the money to buy a home. Too many people seem so attracted to the idea of owning a house that they willingly sign the dotted lines — and lose 4+ hours in every weekday of their lives just getting to and from work.