Let’s come together to celebrate our freedom and independence. Having innate and inalienable liberties is the foundation of this country. The concept of independence is abstract and usually expressed as intangible actions, such as the freedom from the tyranny of others. However, home ownership has become an icon of freedom that is tangible and obtainable.
Last month I wrote about a few of the benefits of owning a home as part of the recognition of National Homeownership Month. Besides being wealthier, home owners tend to be healthier and happier than their renter counterparts. The history of owning land has been one of wealth and luxury. Renting on the other hand has been associated transition, difficult times, and a hard life. This can be traced back to the middle ages, when serfdom was associated with leasing.
How did owning a home become associated with the American Dream? Richard Mize revealed the truth about the connection in 2013 (Who first dreamed the American dream of homeownership?; The Oklahoman; June 22, 2013; newsok.com). Mize cites Eric John Abrahamson’s historical biography “Building Home: Howard F. Ahmanson and the Politics of the American Dream” (University of California Press) as the source of the story. Abrahamson attributes the idea of home ownership as the American Dream to the restructuring of local savings and loans after the depression of 1896.
Building and loan institutions during the 1800’s certainly did not have the technology nor the interconnectedness our modern banking system has today. In restructuring the financial system after the 1896 depression, local building and loans were organized to form the U.S. League of Local Building and Loan Associations. The League’s motto was “The American Home: The Safe-Guard of American Liberties.” According to Mize, this was promoted as the American Dream.
Abrahamson attributed the League’s first president, Seymour Dexter, with equating the idea of home ownership to liberty. According to Abrahamson, Dexter felt that owning property was a duty. Dexter believed Thomas Jefferson’s conviction that independent property-owning farmers would “sustain the independence and virtue of the citizenry and the health of the democracy.” Dexter viewed the industrialization of America as a “challenge to democracy.” The industrialized worker was much like the serf of the middle ages who rented a home near their job, and owed allegiance only to their employer (landlord), which was viewed as “politically corrupt.” And to rebuild America of the 1890s, owning a home became portrayed as patriotic and a “civic virtue.”
In 2011, then president of the National Association of Realtors Ronald L. Phipps wrote (Home ownership matters; magazine.realtor; February 1st, 2011):
“Our commitment to home ownership is not about simple self-interest. Rather it is about a larger purpose. Home ownership has been part of the American experience since the very first breath of the Republic. Today, what we need to do as a nation is connect with our truth and our tradition: Home ownership matters.”
It’s not only Realtors who promote home ownership but government as well. Federal and local government programs exist to encourage home ownership through down payment assistance programs, low interest rate mortgages, and even home renovation programs.
As Seymour Dexter of the U.S. League of Local Building and Loan Associations realized, owning a home is an act of independence and patriotism. It doesn’t only benefit you personally, but it also benefits your community and the economy. The idea of independence transcends all ideology and can be exhibited by owning a home.
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.