Homeownership and Community Viability

How is splitting single family homes into apartments a detriment to urban communities’ revival?

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How to create databases that provide necessary information for generating reliable metrics of community viability using GIS?

A common understanding of realtors (of course) and of community development researchers and organization directors that rental properties are reflective of communities in turmoil. However, it is likely that this metric only paints part of the picture. What other factors can be used in determining areas that would have the highest return (measured in community stabilization) on investment?

A valid and logical reasoning to see homeownership as a sign of positive development is such that if the home is being renovated by homeowners, it is presumed the standards to which the housing stock are improved in quality (more energy efficient and better quality materials) will be higher if people plan to live there themselves.

This aside, it would seem that this metric is in use solely because it is easy data to acquire, and improved data will improve the standards by which people measure community viability.

Home ownership is taken to statistically reflects the presence non-criminal tenants with certain fiscal means (without relying on crime data). Based on the assumption that people who rent are more likely to be criminals, and likely to have a minimum income. It is presumed this is a factor for why homeownership is a commonly used metric for communities’ viability.

Clearly this metric alone is biased to certain geographies, and it is questionable if it, alone, should be applied to high density communities and communities in transition (gentrificaiton). This reflects community value as based on class and crime – two indicator factors of characteristics in common with unstable communities. An investigation into what other indicators could be used to reflect neighborhood stability would undoubtedly generate interesting relationships between factors.

In some neighborhoods (possibly related to size), homeownership is not realistic in relation to property values, yet people of all income ranges desire access to the local amenities. A growing trend in co-living

There is the cultural trend of keeping monies liquid as opposed to tying them into property investment.

Following 2008, the concept of homeownership as an investment took on new definitions in relation to wise money management. People are trending toward renting and urbanism for flexibility and proximity to employment.

Perhaps is it city size that precludes the existence of high rental/low crime/stabilized neighborhoods. Larger cities trend toward homeownership as a burden and not an investment. It is also possible that the use of homeownership has lost its meaning in terms of being an accurate metric for neighborhood stabilization.

This article today in Atlantic Cities makes use of the data released Tuesday December 17, 2013  from the American Community Survey and the Census Bureau’s new mapping tool. The article supports the theory that higher densities support higher rates of rentals.

Homeownership is an indicator of community health ONLY for certain geographies.

Thus this article is a preliminary investigation as to what GIS has to offer to community developers in terms of creating reliable metrics for identifying viable communities.

Margaret Spyker

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