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VOL. 126 | NO. 119 | Monday, June 20, 2011



Renting Can Coexist With Ownership

The Memphis News

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Memphis has for quite some time had an unusually high percentage of renters when compared with other cities.

And fears about changing the pattern of where those renters live has put the trend at odds with the long held goal of home ownership as a goal for every adult.

After years of either/or, a coexistence of the two seems to be the healthiest course of action.

But if the practices in both remain the same, existing tensions will continue to make these two kinds of development a competition instead of part of a single comprehensive plan for a better overall community.

As rental occupancy rates pick up, we still have the specter of large apartment complexes that have become ghost towns. You can see these eyesores from the interstate.

And these complexes are problems in a myriad of ways from crime to blight to rendering the larger area around them an investment-free zone. Then there are the bureaucratic barriers that allow property owners including those of rental homes to let them remain in that condition for years even when the city is aggressively using all of its powers to force owners to do the right thing.

It’s no wonder that homeowners and those selling homes have trust issues with rental housing.

But after our recent national experience and a few others going back to the 1980s, there are trust issues with the ground rules and assumptions about home ownership that are just as well-founded.

Trust seems to be something that needs to be rebuilt in the parts of our city with homeowners and with renters.

The idea of home ownership as “an investment” to be held by those who remained as mobile as they were when they rented was more of a sea change in the development and sprawl of cities than we might have anticipated. And few bothered to see past this phrase used to make more sales and dilute the city’s density as the investments headed East in a leapfrog effect that left behind ownership investments turned rental property to be “managed.”

At the end of a cycle that began long ago with vast apartment complexes and ended with the gospel of “home ownership is for everyone” it seems clear that this shouldn’t be a contest. Rental properties are owned by someone. So there is ownership and there is now at least a move toward making those owners accountable for the impact their properties have on the larger community.

That movement combined with another movement to educate Memphians about financial institutions and the way they work seems the city’s best bet for an informed and planned coexistence that will benefit all whether the rent or own.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 6 54 3,101
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468
BUSINESS LICENSES 34 90 6,712
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 16 110 7,899
MARRIAGE LICENSES 32 91 4,734