Sometimes there are realities that must be faced with home ownership that are not immediately apparent, and I think it is a service for me to point them out, hard as some of it might be.
Once you own a home, just like when you are a patient with a serious illness, you must learn to advocate for yourself. There is no one else out there who cares more about you and your needs as a property owner than you. In fact, sometimes it seems like no one wants anyone to thrive as a property owner.
When you live in Berkeley or Oakland, you are constantly being apprised of new legislation about rent control, eviction control and many different add-ons to property taxes. It is good that we as a society want to create a positive environment for all people. Yet housing-related legislation often oversimplifies complex issues and excludes the interest of homeowners.
When a person chooses to put down roots, and to get active within a community, it creates that community. The condition of the roads, schools, and parks, and the existence of small local merchants, all of these begin to take on a new meaning as a person decides this is really their home. The responsibility of home ownership means pride of ownership and eyesores like graffiti and debris begin to really matter to them. The incidence of crime and the suffering of people experiencing homelessness begin to matter more too.
I have personally been to city council meetings in Berkeley and Oakland, and have seen that when there is a “hot” real estate issue that the legislature will vote on, it is not the property owners who show up to debate, but tenants, who come to support what will most likely benefit them.
In places like Berkeley, where a large portion of the voting populace is a transitory workforce and students, all of whom do take the time to vote, it is even more important to be aware of housing issues and to cast your votes when they come up on the ballot.
Many millennials in the current economic environment have been priced out of housing ownership, or are questioning the value of home ownership since they move frequently for jobs, and see how challenging it can be to be a homeowner. This is a trend that is not likely to change. Onerous new legislation that increases property taxes (already very high) for people who inherit property means that family legacy ownership is completely challenged in the new political environment. There are obvious pluses and minuses to this.
So if you care about the community, about your home, get active. Vote, make sure the politicians hear your voice as well; make sure you have a seat at the table when very important things like zoning, planning, or anything that will directly and materially affect you and your bigger home — the city you live within — is up for discussion. Politicians may have their own agendas, but basically they listen to their constituents.