Chart of the Day: Federal Housing Expenditures for Homeowners versus Renters

Matthew Desmond, author of the award-winning book Evicted, about rental housing and poverty in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was in town last week to discuss his work. He gave a lecture sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and here’s a chart from his presentation.

The point of the chart is pretty clear. Through programs like the Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction, Federal assistance props up homeowners far more than it does renters, who are almost always much worse off economically. It’s a terrible set of policy priorities that comes at a huge cost for people struggling to get by.

Speaking personally, I can vouch that Desmond’s book is very well written and lovingly captures the desperate struggle for housing that exists in Milwaukee and any city with huge racial equity gaps. It’s definitely worth a read!

Or if you prefer, just watch this lecture. Desmond connects his work to public health conversations, and all the lessons here apply almost as well to cities like Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, or many other places in Minnesota. is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

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7 Responses to Chart of the Day: Federal Housing Expenditures for Homeowners versus Renters

  1. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker October 24, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    That’s a great chart.

  2. Monte Castleman October 24, 2017 at 8:30 pm #

    I’m not sure I’d characterize as a “terrible set of policy priorities”. I’d argue that owner-occupied housing is something we want to encourage and if we didn’t have these tax deductions we’d have a lot more people being involuntary renters.

    • Bill Lindeke
      Bill Lindeke October 25, 2017 at 8:49 am #

      Fair enough. I meant that they are terrible from an equity standpoint, if the goal is to help poor people afford housing.

    • Pete Barrett November 11, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

      It’s my understanding that other western industrial democracies do not have a mortgage interest deduction, and their rates of home ownership are similar to ours.

      If we indeed wish to encourage home ownership through the tax code, it may make sense to allow a deduction for the purchase of one’s first home. But to allow one to continually sell their current home and buy a more expensive home doesn’t accomplish that.

      As far as the mortgage deduction for second homes or homes over a million dollars, don’t get me started.

  3. Max Hailperin
    Max Hailperin October 25, 2017 at 11:18 am #

    Shouldn’t these aggregate $ figures be put in context of the number of people affected?

    • Scott Shaffer
      Scott October 30, 2017 at 9:03 am #

      About 37% of the US households rent their home, and 63% own. From the chart above, it looks like expenditures benefiting homeowners are at least three times the size of the expenditures benefiting renters.

      Here’s a statistic I think is more relevant: The median homeowner’s net worth is about $200,000, and the median renter’s is about $2,000.

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