Via one of my brilliant PhD students, Elena Magglioni:
Depressing, yes — but the end of a dream? Not exactly. I have never quite understood what the American dream really means when it comes to housing. For some people, it means having a solid and fairly safe long-term investment that is coupled with the satisfaction of owning the house they live in. That dream is still alive. Others, however, think the American dream is owning property that appreciates by 30 percent a year, making a house into a vehicle for paying bills. But those kinds of dreams have become nightmares for the millions of foreclosed property owners who have found themselves sliding toward bankruptcy. But for people with a more realistic version of the American dream, buying a house now can make a lot of sense. Think of it as an investment. The return or yield on that investment comes in two forms. First, it provides what is called “net imputed rent from owner-occupied housing.” You live in the house and so it provides you with a real flow of valuable services.
You mean, it’s nice to own a house just because houses are nice to live in? It’s not just a cash cow for burning up equity to blow on Caribbean vacays? Or a vast capitalist conspiracy designed to dupe us into living in soul-destroying sprawl driving in our SUVs everywhere we go rather than living “authentic urban lives” in lofts and cafes where we debate the finer points of democracy and French philosophers and drink half-caff Fair Trade lattes, no foam?
I’m not sure I can live in a world where houses are discussed in any tone other than the histrionic.