Food for thought:

If you can rent anything decent, try to avoid buying property. Think about the most interesting people you know. Chances are, most of them are renters. People who rent talk about the books that they’ve read, the trips that they’ve taken, the skills that they are learning, the friends whose company they are enjoying. Property owners complain about the local politicians, the high rate of property tax, the difficulty of finding competent tradespeople, the high value of their own (very likely crummy) house or condo, and what kinds of furniture and kitchen appliances they are contemplating buying. Property owners are boring. The most boring parts of a property owner’s personality are those which relate to his or her ownership of real estate. –Philip Greenspun


Very intersting quote. Its true, in part. People who get into ownership become consumed. Its really hard not to. So much responsibility. So much desire involved. Thus it leaves little time for anything else.

Ruby and I bought a condo last October. It sucks all kinds of money. But we chose not to live far away from it all. We equated living further into the suburbs as bad. Contributing to the lameness factor. There are levels of lameness. At least we hope so. ;)

If owners complain about local politicians does that mean renters don’t give a shit about local politics? Does being interesting equate being disconnected with your community? (not snarky questions)

My POV is that American Democracy shouldn’t be based on property ownership. But that’s what our white founding fathers did. Empower themselves using the greatest resource they had. Property. (People, Land, Goods, Weapons..) Sadly by doing this they created a more sinister form of class discrimination than they had in Europe. Sorta the opposite of what we think American Democracy should be. Right?

But then again I live in Chapel Hill, NC…. a very different property ownership situation from San Fran.

Your questions are good ones. Corey IMed me today and said “people are so nomadic nowadays.” I wonder what effect renters have on local politics. Probably a combination of less involvement (expecting things to just work) and at the same time, higher expectations, with more well-traveled, dare I say progressive ideas.

Though Philip can be a tad arrogant—I mean this comes from a series of articles about what to do if you get so rich so early you contemplate retiring early—I really liked this paragraph because it seemed to express something that went against the grain. That though there may be many benefits associated with home ownership, it also may come with some unexpected adjustments of focus.

Don’t worry Justin–you will still be interesting if you buy a house someday!


That’s a great quote. All the more sweet to my ears as I am a renter and all my freinds, family and I’d say most of my country men are home-owners (or rather should I say morgage payers). Yes some day they will all own their homes and then I won’t be laughing, after 20 or 30 years of payment they will all be the ones with huge smiles on their faces. In the mean time, for those 20 or 30 years I will be the one living the high life not struggling and consumed by my home-ownership. So for me those years from the age of 30 odd to 50 or 60 something will be interesting…. wouldn’t have it any other way.

Renters, such as College students, have less effect on local politics than they should. If they voted more often and in greater numbers they could run shit. But what good does it do them?

Ruby Sinreich ran for office as a very young person. Now she is reshaping local politics and trying to engage people. Mark Chilton ran as a very young person and became the state’s youngest elected official ever. Now he’s Mayor of Carrboro. Both of them left, came back, and then planted roots in a place they love. For many reasons besides buying a house.
Politics is a slow slow process. If you don’t have the tenacity to stick around you won’t see much BIG change. I look for small positive changes that are big to the people they happen to.

I suppose many College students don’t see very far into the future. (many noticeable exceptions) I know when I was 18-24 I couldn’t see past tomorrow sometimes.

Brian, it’s interesting that in Chapel Hill renters = college students. In San Francisco, renters = everyone without $50-100k down payment. Which leads me to believe there’s probably a difference between the political involvement of your average college student, and renters in general.

That said, I agree that renters (or nomadic souls) may be far less compelled to get involved in local politics. So if indeed there’s a trend towards more renting (for whatever reason), that will inevitably effect the tenor of local politics.

Christy Rodgers

Hi Justin–thought we’d catch up with you via your blog and I find this delightful (and entirely true in my renter’s opinion) quote. I would also say to the nomadic issue, that in cities with viable rent control, you can find a great deal of stability in the renting population—twenty-five years in Marcus’ case, 14 in mine, and I think we are not that unusual! What you have to guard against is the speculative frenzy that makes landlords slaver to drive out their long-term tenants so they can cash in on the market.

Responding to another part of your blog, we are also carfree as I think you know (and scooter free too, alas) and that’s probably why we haven’t invited you to go hiking for awhile (and I’ve been traveling a good bit this year in Colombia and Mexico)–but I can see you are getting around to those beautiful local spots just fine! Maybe we can figure something out though–we still have a pending date to take you musseling! Our best to both of you –Christy and Marcus.


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