Thomas Sowell

The difference is that today there is some arbitrary percentage of one's income that sets the limit to what the government will consider to be affordable housing. It used to be 25 percent but it might be 30 percent or some other proportion.

But, whatever the percentage, it is no longer the individual's responsibility to choose housing that fits within that limit. It is somehow the taxpayers' job to make up the difference, when someone chooses housing whose cost exceeds that magic number.

It is certainly no longer considered to be the individual's own responsibility to acquire the work skills and experience to be able to earn enough to afford better housing as the years passed. Why do that, when the government can simply "spread the wealth around," to use another political phrase?

The ultimate irony is that increasing government intervention in the housing market over the years has generally made housing less affordable than before, by any standard.

A hundred years ago, Americans spent a smaller percentage of their incomes on housing than they do today. In 1901, housing costs took 23 percent of the average American's income. By 2003, it took 33 percent of a far larger income.

In particular places where government regulations and restrictions have been especially severe, such as coastal California, rents or monthly mortgage payments have averaged as high as 50 percent of the average person's income.

Most of our problems are not nearly as severe as political "solutions." In housing, government policies have lured people into situations that were untenable to them and to the country.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate