Yesterday, I made this suggestion:
The federal government should offer income tax breaks for families which purchase or build their own homes on small plots of land.
I also said this, just for the record:
[T]his is an idea in (at best) embryonic form right now. And it may be a stupid idea, anyway. But how do I know, unless I toss it out there for discussion?
Well, I’ve concluded (thanks to some very helpful comments by users “freemkts” and “commonsenseobserver”) that this idea still needs a little work. Such is life.
Here’s my more refined suggestion: The federal government should offer income tax breaks for families which purchase or build their own homes. Not much of an obvious change, but a change there has been, nonetheless.
Thanks to both commenters mentioned above, I see that the idea of requiring/encouraging families to sustain themselves by growing their own produce was, well, just a bit far-fetched. (Would I like to see more families do that? Absolutely. But should it be public policy? Eh, I’m not so sure about that now.)
Having said all that, I still believe that the federal government can play a very important role in encouraging homeownership. Not through manipulating interest rates, requiring that a certain percentage of loans be made to low-income families, or anything like that. I think that tax breaks would be enough.
Of course, I know we’ve got an incredibly complicated tax code at present. Like most people (at least on the right), I’d like to see it simplified. That brings me to a corollary to the above proposal. What if we were to push for a flat-rate income tax (not a bad idea in its own right, I believe), and simultaneously were to eliminate all of the deductions, credits, etc., with one exception–a tax break for homeowners? This tax break would be available to anyone and everyone who might purchase a home, and would only apply so long as one lived in one’s own home. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this would incentivize homeownership, while avoiding a lot of the problems which arise from other, more direct forms of government regulation and intervention.
A second corollary: Might it not be a good idea for free-marketers such as ourselves to try and eliminate many of the government regulations which drive up the cost of homes? That, too, would have a positive effect, in that many people who would otherwise be unable to afford to buy a home might not be shut out after all.
Even if we don’t call our vision the “ownership society,” it would be a mistake, I believe, for us to give up on the idea.