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Councilman Ben Hueso, a leading contender for council president, had an interesting thing to say yesterday. I’m going to pull from Survival:

[Hueso] said the city has put effort into increasing homeownership rates in the city of San Diego, rates which he said had historically been among the lowest in the country. He equated increased homeownership with increased civic-mindedness, neighborhood safety and pride of ownership.

And Hueso said this foreclosure crisis “threatens to undermine years and years of hard work” to get residents in homes and help them “realize the American dream.”

Local government, Hueso said, should play a large role in promoting homeownership in the city of San Diego.

“We don’t want people to necessarily become renters,” he said.

But yesterday, Gentry of the Housing Commission said he wanted to be careful in these foreclosure plans to not just push someone into homeownership who shouldn’t be there.

Catch that? Any of you out there renters? Well, you’re a loser, uninterested in civic mindedness and neighborhood safety — at least according to Hueso.

Can we get past this, please? Right now there is nothing wrong with renting a place to live. In fact, rental rates are still much lower now than the cost of paying a mortgage every month. You can rent a place in a fine single-family home in a coastal neighborhood right now for a monthly payment that wouldn’t be enough — or would barely be enough — to purchase and own even a foreclosed townhouse in eastern Chula Vista.

There’s no reason right now to take on a mortgage. And for those who have mortgages, becoming a renter again should not be so horribly stigmatized. It would be a rational decision considering the fact that they own an asset of rapidly declining value. Even if the banks, compelled by the government, lower the loan repayment conditions, in many cases they’re merely delaying the necessary payments, not eliminating them.

So you have people being persuaded by Hueso and others to stay in locked into a ridiculous mortgage when it may be not only rational but much better for their quality of life to move into a rental home.

This obsession with homeownership and all of these supposed benefits pushed thousands into houses and condos they couldn’t afford and left people vulnerable to parasitic mortgage brokers who played on their desire to be part of this mania.

Renting is a rational choice right now. Politicians who call their constituents bad neighbors if they don’t own, on the other hand, are not being rational at all.

SCOTT LEWIS

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