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Home ownership as a psychological rather than economic reality 

From the wonderful Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, loc 654-669:

When Pam and Ned arrived at College Mobile Home Park, Tobin and Lenny offered them the “Handyman Special,” a free mobile home. Under this arrangement, tenants owned the trailers, and Tobin owned the ground underneath them. He charged the owners “lot rent,” which was equivalent to what his renters paid. But unlike the renters, families who owned their trailers were responsible for upkeep. In theory, a family could at any time move their trailer elsewhere. 

But the owners knew that in practice this was impossible. Towing expenses exceed $ 1,500 and setting up the trailer somewhere else could cost double that. When owners were evicted and inevitably left their trailer behind, Tobin would reclaim it as “abandoned property” and give it to someone else. At the time that Pam was facing eviction, all but twenty trailers in the park were owner-occupied. The only benefit to owning your trailer was psychological. “I moved here so I can own a home, even if it’s on wheels,” one of Pam’s neighbors liked to say. 

There’s a more established example on loc 3610:

In the 1950s, white real estate brokers developed an advanced technique of exploitation, one that targeted black families shut out of the private housing market. After buying houses on the cheap from nervous white homeowners in transitioning neighborhoods, private investors would sell these houses “on contract” to black families for double or triple their assessed value. Black buyers had to come up with sizeable down payments, often upwards of 25 percent of the property’s inflated value. Once they moved in, black families had all the responsibilities of home ownership without any of the rights. When families missed payments, which many did after monthly installments were increased or necessary housing upkeep set them back, they could be evicted as their homes were foreclosed and down payments pocketed. The profits were staggering. In 1966, a Chicago landlord told a court that on a single property he had made $ 42,500 in rent but paid only $ 2,400 in maintenance. When accused of making excessive profits, the landlord simply replied, “That’s why I bought the building.” 

Categories: Thinking

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