Another benefit of homeownership is the sense of community fostered by the roots that homeowners lay down. Homeowners have a much larger financial stake in their neighborhoods than renters do, and subsequently, studies have shown that they get much more involved in their communities than renters.
“When you walk down the block where everybody owns the house, there is an immediate difference in the quality and cleanliness of that street,” said Curran. “If I own my house and there’s a piece of trash outside my house, I’m cleaning it up. I don’t want it there. I’m thinking about the value of my house and the quality of life for me and my neighbors.”
For Curran, the sense of community fostered by homeownership doesn’t end there.
“I’m meeting my neighbors,” he said. “I’m voting. I’m getting involved. I just feel that people who own definitely have a more assertive attitude towards their community.”
Civic participation is hard to measure, but there is research that backs up Curran’s point of view. A study, issued in 1998 and published in the Journal of Urban Economics a year later, found higher incidences of voting in local elections, awareness of local representatives and membership in volunteer groups in owners compared to renters. A separate study in 2005 asserted an interesting theory: Homeownership serves to facilitate neighborhood interactions because owners see in each other more potential for longer-lasting relationships.
“There’s neighborhood events that our neighbors put on regularly that we like to go over to,” Burnett said. “We know a few people around the neighborhood that we wouldn’t have known when we were renting. The last place that we lived [when we were renters], if we knew anybody, it was because we were obligated to — the HOA president, our landlord, the people directly across from us.”
For Burnett — a millennial who moved to Seattle from Oregon for work — being a homeowner also serves as an emotional tie to his adopted hometown.
“I feel more connected to the city in general because I own a home,” he said. “It’s kind of an ‘anchor keeping you steady in a storm’ sort of thing. It’s a big deal. I appreciate that and I like the stability of it.”
The growth of homeownership also provides a boon to communities by fueling local businesses, added Burdick.
“I know businesses appreciate homeowners because they buy a lot more items for their home, whether it’s furnishings or upgrades,” he said. “They are more likely to spend time and money at local restaurants and other establishments. There’s just a lot more local connection in areas where there’s good homeownership.”