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VIEWPOINT: Homeownership should be prioritized this year

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As we turn the page to 2024, one aspiration resonates deeply across Delawareans: the dream of owning a home. Yet, for many, this dream remains frustratingly out of reach, choked by a lack of housing supply, rising housing costs, and a tightening financial landscape. In this critical year, the Delaware legislature has a unique opportunity to make homeownership a reality for more of our residents, and doing so should be a top priority in their agenda.

Delaware Association of REALTORS President George Thomasson and CEO Wesley T. Stefanick talk about legislative action needed to increase homeownership.

George Thomasson and Wesley T. Stefanick | PHOTO COURTESY OF DAR

Investing in homeownership unlocks a treasure trove of benefits for individuals and our state as a whole. Owning a home isn’t just about bricks and mortar – it’s about building a secure foundation for individuals and families. Compared to renters, homeowners typically amass significantly more wealth, with the National Association of REALTORS® reporting a gap of around $311,000. This prosperity doesn’t stay isolated. Homeowners tend to invest in their communities, volunteer their time, and advocate for better schools, ultimately creating a more enriching environment for everyone. Stable housing translates to stable education, as children benefit from consistent schooling within established communities. The economic impact is undeniable, fueling diverse industries like construction, finance, and landscaping, along with generating substantial property taxes that support vital public services. In essence, by prioritizing pathways to homeownership, we pave the way for a more vibrant, equitable, and resilient future for our state, where every resident has the opportunity to plant roots, thrive, and contribute to a stronger tomorrow.

But the path to homeownership has become perilous. Housing prices continue to surge, outpacing wages and leaving many on the sidelines. The supply of affordable homes dwindles, and the competition for those that remain is fierce. These challenges disproportionately impact young families, minorities, and low-income residents, exacerbating existing inequalities and hindering social mobility.

Our 4,400+ REALTORS® in Delaware are pleased to finally see so many legislators and organizations talking about homeownership and the overall housing crisis. It’s been, unfortunately, a long time coming.

The legislature must act with urgency and conviction to find solutions. They must: increase housing supply through incentives, strengthen assistance programs for home purchasers, and reform burdensome regulations on development and homeownership, to name just a few.

We hope legislators keep in mind, with whatever they ultimately propose, that they consider private property rights, too. While rental housing is vital to Delawareans, many of the proposals, as of late, are a direct assault on housing providers which results in less and less incentive to offer rental properties. In our current environment, we need more supply of housing, not less.

We do fear that controversial and potentially damaging legislative initiatives will consume the precious time that the legislature is in session. We hope that is not the case. Housing is too important to take a backseat and we encourage the legislature to develop a balanced working committee, made up of legislators and community stakeholders, to focus the necessary time and energy to appropriately tackle the crisis.

The current flood of proposals on how to tackle the housing crisis presents both promising possibilities and unforeseen dangers. Without a central group balancing these trade-offs, we risk unintended harm. The legislature has the power to seize this opportunity to create a more comprehensive and responsible approach to policymaking on this issue.

Making housing and homeownership a reality is not just an economic imperative; it’s a moral one. It’s about ensuring every Delawarean has a fair shot at the American dream and the privilege of calling our state their own. The legislature has the power to make this dream a tangible reality. REALTORS® urge them to seize this opportunity and prioritize homeownership and increased housing supply in 2024. Our organization stands ready to assist.

George Thomasson is the president and Wesley T. Stefanick is the CEO of the Delaware Association of REALTORS®.

 

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