Charles Marohn’s recent article in The American Conservative on the evils of single-family zoning received over 200 comments. The most provocative responses were the ones forthrightly defending exclusion, on the grounds that renters are dangerous and must be excluded at all costs. For example, one person wrote: “People of all races also have a right to escape from uncivil society… Renters are entirely different in their outlook and practices than home owners in how one regards their neighborhood. For one it transactional, for the other its their dream and investment.”
In other words, homeowners are better citizens, and thus must be protected from disorderly renters. What’s wrong with this argument?
If you really believe homeowners are better citizens, you would want homeownership to be as cheap as possible, so that more people could become homeowners. For example, you would be positively eager to have small, cheap houses in homeowner zones, or even for-sale condos.
But homeowners have a financial incentive to do the opposite: to make home ownership as scarce and expensive as possible, so they can sell their house for as much money as possible (or to use a common euphemism, to “build wealth”).
And they usually favor zoning policies that do exactly that- that is, by excluding smaller, cheaper-to-build houses, inflate home prices and make homeownership unaffordable for many people.
In other words, government can encourage home ownership as a source of alleged good citizenship, and can try to make home ownership a source of vast wealth- but it can’t do both. In the United States (and especially on the coasts) local government has chosen the latter path.