Home: More Than Just a Place to Store Your Stuff

Owning a home is a positive financial investment, but did you know it can actively improve almost every aspect of your everyday life? We have the facts and testimonies for you right here. 


Comedian George Carlin once said that a house is just a place to store your stuff. Writer Jack Kerouac said that houses are full of things that gather dust. However, according to a National Association of Realtor’s survey, 87% of participants said that homeownership was part of their American Dream. With a response that overwhelming, it’s safe to say that a house is more than just a storage unit. Increasingly, it’s become clear that homeownership is the key to a safer, more stable future for a family, the positive effects of which impact a family’s everyday life in many critical ways.


Improved Financial Outcomes

In its most practical terms, homeownership is seen as a long-term financial investment. As the value of a home increases, so does a homeowner’s net worth. In 2013, the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances found that a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400, while a renter’s was only $5,400. Crysteal, a Habitat Chicago homeowner, began to see improvements to her financial security even before she moved into her home in 2015:

“To be honest, I was afraid to apply [for a home] at first. I didn’t have good credit or a lot of money. Working with Habitat changed my life completely. Today, my credit is better and I’m learning how to save.”

Because financial stability is tied heavily into the value of a person’s home, a homeowner has a greater incentive than a renter to manage its upkeep and increase its value with upgrades and additions. Homeownership also increases a family’s cash-on-hand: People who own affordable homes are found to have more discretionary income to pay down debt, save for education, or start a business. Tonya, a Habitat Chicago homebuyer, has saved enough to purchase a new car, return to school to finish her Bachelor’s degree, and enroll her daughter in a variety of enrichment activities such as ballet, art, and swimming lessons.



Higher Quality of Health & Education

Living in poor housing conditions is directly related to higher rates of health issues—including respiratory conditions and injuries—and because homes of homeowners are generally in better condition than those of renters, it only follows that homeowners are healthier than renters. Families who live in quality housing experience fewer health issues, dedicate twice as much of their income on their health, and take more preventative measures to stay well. A survey of Habitat homebuyers nationwide found that 74% of families said their overall health improved after moving into their new home. Homeowners also report higher self-esteem and happiness than renters. This wellbeing also extends to the classroom: children of homeowners have higher levels of academic achievement, a lower drop-out rate, and fewer behavioral problems. Derren, the 12-year-old son of a Habitat Chicago homeowner, put it best at their home dedication ceremony:

“Math is my favorite subject and I’m really excited to have my own room away from my little brothers to do my math homework.”



Increased Civic Participation

The benefits a family receives from owning a home comes from not only the physical structure itself, but also the neighborhood in which it is located. Because their economic wellbeing is tied to the home, and the home value is tied to the neighborhood, homeowners are far more invested in what happens, long-term, in their neighborhood than renters. A study conducted by Glaeser and DiPasquale found that 77% of homeowners said they had voted in a local election, compared to only 52% of renters. Research compiled by the National Association of Relators reported that homeownership also increases the number of hours a person volunteers in their community. Natasha, Habitat Chicago’s first homeowner at 119th and S Union Ave., demonstrates just this:

“Being the first family on the block is a HUGE deal and I’m hoping that we can be a source of information and support when other families move in. I know that I am looking forward to having a neighborhood with a building boom and helping to make it happen.”

Not too long after moving in, Natasha hit the ground running by working with the American Red Cross to install smoke detectors in homes across West Pullman.



Economic & Neighborhood Stability

Homeownership, and a high rate of owner occupied units, increases the stability of a neighborhood. From 2014 to 2015, only 5% of owner occupants moved to a different residence, compared to 25% of renters. Because homeowners typically remain in homes longer than renters, the housing market is more stable in areas with a high rate of homeownership than in areas with a high rate of rental units. The local economy is impacted by this stability, too; homeowners spend approximately 3.5% of their income on goods and services from local businesses. A low turnover rate of residents also increases social ties within a community. Habitat Chicago homebuyer Shuanta, has big plans for bringing her neighbors together:

“[I want to organize] block parties! I love bringing people together so I’d love to just get everyone out together. It’d be great to get all the Habitat families out to celebrate together, especially before the next school year. A back to school block party!”



The Data Is In

Never has it been clearer that homeownership increases the success and sustainability of a neighborhood and its residents. You can help improve all aspects of the lives of Chicagoans through homeownership by directly supporting Habitat Chicago’s affordable homeownership program by donating or volunteering on the build site.



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