Recently I read an article online that really triggered my Is It True reflex. At first I assumed it couldn’t possibly be true, but on further realistic thought I think it probably is true. The article said that home ownership increases unemployment. At first I thought they meant it causes jobs to go away, which is not true. What is true is that owning a home makes people more likely to stay where they are instead of going where the jobs are. It’s more complicated to sell your house – in a declining area, since jobs are leaving – than it is to give your landlord notice and move to where the jobs are. So maybe the mortgage interest tax deduction is driving a behavior that’s not as 100% beneficial as I’ve always assumed.
In the first half of the 20th century people did tend to settle in one place and stay there. Jobs were often lifetime careers. Now as we move into the first half of the 21st century, that has changed quite a bit. As a nation we’re a lot more mobile. As local economies shift and change the more flexible and mobile people move with them. So there’s another thing I “always knew”, that home ownership is always a good thing if you can afford it, that turns out to be true only sometimes.