Thursday, March 10, 2016

Housing, as Alternate Equilibrium Potential

First: what is meant by alternate, or alternative equilibrium? A short version of the answer, is recreating local conditions for non tradable sector activity, which allow groups of individuals to better coordinate needs for both services and local asset production, among themselves. Presently, there are opposing arguments as to whether further housing capacity is even needed. Alongside a growing chorus to generate more housing stock, one also hears arguments to "Stop Encouraging Homeownership", as in this recent post from Ike Brannon: argument could be made that instead of taking measures to boost homeownership, a better approach to jumpstarting the economy might be to reduce incentives to homeownership and let the proportion of people who own homes fall.
How to think about this? First, he's right about the problem of government housing subsidies. Government housing subsidies are no longer a productive approach for encouraging homeownership, if indeed they ever were. Nonetheless, I believe that some form of property ownership - however one might choose to describe personal living quarters - to be important for most individuals. Even ownership in its most basic forms, will generally make one's life more meaningful, predictable and certain.

Alternate paths for ownership are needed, and the more attention such paths are given, the more respectable they can become. Not everyone has the forms of income which are associated with "normal" ownership. Even so: given the chance, most individuals have the capacity to begin asset formation from a young age, from the first monetary compensation provided for mutual assistance, in knowledge use systems.

Many individuals need property ownership options on more flexible terms, than what are now possible. Small scale ownership patterns could decrease the "all or nothing" nature of ownership commitment, which too frequently leads to bankruptcy and/or permanent loss of economic access. Greater flexibility would empower those who sometimes become overwhelmed - due to income or health concerns - by ongoing maintenance responsibilities.

Alternative equilibrium constructs would also address the growing problem of closed housing markets. Closed housing markets reflect what has become a relatively closed marketplace for knowledge use in general equilibrium. Over time, asymmetric compensation has contributed to a preference for higher income consumption patterns in home building. Differences in property values are also exacerbated by market disparities for knowledge use at national levels. The best way to address these problems is to create broader markets for knowledge use in new communities, on symmetric terms. Eventually, doing so would mean new wealth and lifestyle options, without adding undue stress to already existing population densities.

The fact that equilibrium conditions have reached a relative degree of maturity, explains why some arguments for increased density have a forced feel to them. Established neighborhoods (single family dwellings) do not want further density changes in the form of apartments, even if they are intended for high income residents. Likewise, landlords have little to gain from low income renters. For that matter, it can be difficult for would be renters with limited incomes, to feel good about housing they are not personally responsible for, as a lifestyle choice.

Ultimately, part of the solution lies in asking those with limited income, how they feel they might make the best of what they have. How can people best use the time at their disposal, alongside resources which are not overly difficult to procure? How might the marginalized respond, upon discovering they could actually gain monetary compensation through helping one another? Even better, that doing so would eventually mean a paid for roof over one's head, through one's own personal efforts? Even though none of this would be an overnight process, that doesn't mean these possibilities aren't within reach. How much new hope might this mean, for how many?

No comments:

Post a Comment