Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homeownership and neighborhood externalities

When I read Greg Mankiw's op-ed on the tax code, I started thinking about the tax preference for homeownership through the mortgage interest deduction. Not too long ago I tweeted about how a windy night on a Brooklyn street full of rental units resulted in a veritable cyclone of trash. My point being that when everyone's renting, nobody hauls their trash to the curbs themselves, and nobody does anything about it when the workers who do didn't do a good job. A classic tragedy of the commons.

Needless to say, just because somebody is a homeowner wouldn't guarantee they wouldn't free-ride on their neighbors and let their own trash fly free as a bird.

But here's another perspective I found today, in which litter and other indicators of neighborhood risk causes low homeownership rather than the reverse, which is probably the more traditional perspective. It raised the obvious question in my mind of where the litter comes from in the first place, but it could be proximity to commercial strips or commuting hubs, I suppose.