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From the Affordable HomeOwnership Alliance
June 4, 2001
Followup or questions to Adria Pulizzano 415-861-0777

Advocacy Group Charges SF HomeOwnership Policy Failure

"There has been an absence of leadership in San Franciscoís homeownership policy", charged Sarosh Kumana, President of the Affordable HomeOwnership Alliance (AHA), a non-partisan homeownership advocacy group. AHA is committed to increase SFís homeownership rate, currently 34%, up to the national average of 68% by the year 2010.

"Misguided homeownership policy has resulted in San Francisco having the lowest homeownership rate of any US city of comparable size", he said. "Some would even say that homeownership policy has been non-existent in San Francisco."

HUDís statistics show that median national net wealth for homeowners exceeds $78,400, compared to $2,300 for renters. More than 60 percent of homeowners' wealth is in the form of home equity. According to HUDís Urban Policy Brief, equity in a home is the largest single source of wealth for most families and marks an increasingly important economic divide in American society.

"Plain and simple, homeownership increases personal wealth," Kumana said. "We need to help San Franciscans become homeowners, instead of impoverishing them by preventing homeownership. Government policies should help citizens to bridge the gap to homeownership. Keeping tenants in rent-slavery is a crime. Homeownership is an important step in promoting equality of income and opportunity for all American families."

"The McGoldrick TIC legislation, coming up for a vote by the Board of Supervisors, only permits 200-400 tenants to become homeowners every year. He is on the right track, but we need to open the floodgates. We need tens of thousands of new homeowners every year, not just a few hundred," Kumana said. "Expand the number of new homeowners to 40,000 per year, and then maybe we have something worthwhile."

Kumana challenged city policymakers to enact legislation removing archaic and counterproductive barriers against widespread property ownership, and thereby permit tens of thousands of San Franciscans to achieve their aspiration of affordable homeownership by allowing all tenants to buy the apartments they live in.

Said Carol Ruth Silver, former San Francisco Supervisor, who, during her term† on the Board of Supervisors was one of the co-authors of rent control with Harvey Milk, "AHAís HomeOwnership for Tenants proposal (HOT), would increase homeownership while reducing evictions, and includes a self-funding mechanism to help low-income, elderly and disabled families to achieve the homeownership they could never otherwise afford."

HUD Urban Policy Brief Examines Advantages of Homeownership

Homeownership is such a hallowed part of the American Dream that even housing researchers seldom question its presumed benefits. HUD USER's second Urban Policy Brief reviews the empirical evidence concerning the social, economic, and emotional impacts of home-ownership, particularly for lower income Americans.

"Homeownership and Its Benefits" finds that "although research on some key points remains inconclusive, the preponderance of existing scholarship confirms the validity of many of the benefits popularly attributed to homeownership." These include claims that homeownership:

  • Increases personal wealth. Statistics show that equity in a home is the largest single source of wealth for most families and marks an increasingly important economic divide in American society. Median net wealth for homeowners exceeds $78,400, compared to $2,300 for renters. More than 60 percent of homeowners' wealth is in the form of home equity.

  • Enhances personal well-being. It is often asserted that homeownership promotes personal fulfillment in a number of ways. Its importance as a symbol of social status is thought to increase the homeowner's self-esteem and overall satisfaction; the greater privacy it provides may allow the owner to feel a greater sense of control over his or her life. To date, however, the research literature has yielded very little empirical evidence that either confirms or refutes psychological benefits from homeowning.

  • Promotes stronger neighborhoods. Like research on presumed psychological benefits, the problems inherent in developing quantifiable measures and in distinguishing housing tenure from other possible explanatory factors have consistently weakened studies of homeownership's social benefits. However, there is a growing body of evidence that homeowners move less often than renters and are more likely to maintain their property and to participate in neighborhood-based social and political activities.

  • Generates economic growth. Housing is a large and vital sector of the national economy. Building 1,000 single-family homes creates almost 2,100 full-time jobs--home construction and related industries employ approximately 6 million Americans. Investment in residential property accounts for more than 4 percent of the Nation's gross domestic product (GDP).

  • HUD USER Urban Policy Briefs offer the casual reader an informative overview of important topics in housing and urban development, while providing citations to seminal research for readers who wish to explore a subject in greater depth. Single copies of Urban Policy Brief No. 2: Homeownership and Its Benefits are free from HUD USER. Please contact HUD USER to obtain print copies.

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