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.