Unintended Consequences

By:  Thomas Sowell
09/03/2013
       
Unintended Consequences

One of the many unintended consequences of the political crusade for increased homeownership among minorities, and low-income people in general, has been a housing boom and bust that left many foreclosed homes that had to be rented, because there were no longer enough qualified buyers.

The repercussions did not stop there. Many homeowners have discovered that when renters replace homeowners as their neighbors, the neighborhood as a whole can suffer.

The physical upkeep of the neighborhood, on which everyone's home values depend, tends to decline. "Who's going to paint the outside of a rented house?" one resident was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times story.

Renters also tend to be of a lower socioeconomic level than homeowners. They are also less likely to join neighborhood groups, including neighborhood watches to keep an eye out for crime. In some cases, renters have introduced unsavory or illegal activities into family-oriented communities of homeowners that had not had such activities before.

None of this should be surprising. Individuals and groups of all sorts have always differed from one another in many ways, throughout centuries of history and in countries around the world. Left to themselves, people tend to sort themselves out into communities of like-minded neighbors.

This has been so obvious that only the intelligentsia could misconstrue it — and only ideologues could devote themselves to crusading against people's efforts to live and associate with other people who share their values and habits.

Quite aside from the question of whose values and habits may be better is the question of the effects of people living cheek by jowl with other people who put very different values on noise, politeness, education and other things that make for good or bad relations between neighbors. People with children to protect are especially concerned about who lives next door or down the street.

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