Published 5:16 pm, Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Photo: Jason Fochtman /Houston Chronicle
There’s a reason homeownership is still considered the “American dream.” A home is a place to create memories, a means for building wealth, and a pathway to strength and stability in the communities we call home.
In the San Antonio region, things are no different — something for lawmakers to remember as Congress embarks on comprehensive tax reform.
For decades, middle-class families have built wealth through homeownership and real estate investment. Homeownership allows families to protect themselves against rising rents and inflation, while offering an opportunity to build equity over time.
Most families can’t get a loan to purchase stocks or invest in a mutual fund, but they can get a safe mortgage product at competitive rates to invest in a home. It’s a tremendous mechanism for building wealth that shouldn’t be taken away.
Best of all, homeowners aren’t the only ones who benefit. For every two homes sold in the U.S., a job is created. Existing and new home sales in excess of 5 million annually support an average of more than 2.5 million private sector jobs every year. At $3 trillion, real estate accounts for more than 16 percent of the gross domestic product.
That’s a big part of why, for more than a century, the American tax code has incentivized homeownership. The country’s leaders acknowledge a strong, stable housing market is good for everyone, which is why it deserves support.
Important tax incentives such as the mortgage interest deduction, and the state and local tax deduction are part of the tax code to ensure all creditworthy families have a fighting chance at the American dream.
In San Antonio, where property taxes are more unaffordable every year, the loss of these deductions could be crippling. If these incentives disappear, homebuyers could see their dreams pushed further out of reach, while current homeowners would have the welcome mat pulled out from under them.
Comprehensive tax reform is a worthy goal, and lawmakers should be applauded for their ambitious approach. However, as Congress works through this process, the incentives that put homeownership within reach of millions of Americans deserve full support from both sides of the aisle.
Homeownership is a central part of the American dream. We cannot lose sight of it. Contact your U.S. senators and representative. Tell them to reform our tax code but to protect homeowners, too, by safeguarding tax incentives for owning a home, and by making sure that the elimination of the state and local tax deduction does not increase taxes on homeowners.
Lorena Peña is chair-elect of the San Antonio Board of Realtors.