Does Home Ownership Make You American?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a week of training in Los Angeles. With something like 1800 people attending different classes, I knew I was going to meet some interesting people. Our respective homes stretched from Florida to California. I actually had a classmate from western South Dakota in my class as well as someone from Guam. How’s that for diversity? Talk about a lot of different perspectives!

Half way through the week I went to lunch with Victoria and Tamy and have since spent days processing through our conversation. Victoria immigrated to the US from Ecuador as an adult and now lives in Tampa. Tamy immigrated to the US at the age of 23. She and her family were refugees from Viet Nam after her father spent 10 years in prison for working with the US military. Tamy now lives in California. I quickly realized that I have lived a very ‘normal’, quiet life.

Perhaps the most striking takeaway I got from that lunch conversation was their perception of living in America versus being American. Despite being born and growing up elsewhere in the world, they were both very quick to point out that, despite their origins, they were both most definitely Americans. They didn’t just live here; they have made this their home and are not looking back beyond the occasional short visit. They have become a part of the community here in the United States.statue of liberty

It was also interesting to hear their perspective on those who can trace their family’s presence in the US back at least a few generations. Now they were talking about my people. Their perception from both Florida and California was that, while we live in the United States, we aren’t really being Americans. Their perception was that many multi-generational Americans simply occupy space here without becoming a part of the Great Melting Pot and embracing all that is America.

Wow! I was just told I am not American. Before your mind spins too far out of control, let me explain that they didn’t really have any negative tone to the conversation whatsoever. It wasn’t a statement that anyone was good or bad. It was simply an observation about how different people experience being here. Had this statement been made by some politician looking for airtime, I probably would have quickly dismissed it. But these were two people who had lived in other parts of the world and were now Americans living in different parts of our country. That I give some weight to.

It was that very same afternoon that our class spent time discussing why each of us invests so much in encouraging home ownership. People and organizations have put a great deal of research into the effects of home ownership on a community. I knew it was good for the overall health of a community, but I didn’t realize the extent of the impact of home ownership.

The National Association of Realtors did a study compiling the results of other empirical research regarding home ownership’s impact on the community. Here is a summary of the findings:


  • A higher rate of owner-occupied homes in a neighborhood leads to a lower crime rate.
  • There is a direct connection between home owners and their children’s improved academic performance.
  • Children of home owners are less likely to be dependent on social services as adults.
  • Home owners tend to invest more time and money maintaining their homes, contributing to the overall value of the community.
  • Home owners tend to be more politically active as they have the investment of their home to protect.
  • Research shows home ownership provides for more engaged parenting.
  • Home ownership increases the owners’ level of volunteerism, regardless of the value of their home.
  • Attachment to one’s home increases their attachment to the neighborhood, which in turn fosters improved relationships between neighbors.
  • Home owners tend to be physically healthier and happier.


purchase agreementI will be the first to preach that home ownership isn’t for everyone. I do believe the values often associated with home ownership are for everyone. A Facebook friend that likes to throw out questions for discussion recently asked what Sioux Falls needs. While Sioux Falls is a great place to be, I don’t think there is a community out there that wouldn’t benefit from more sense of community.

In working towards that end, the Center for Financial Resources is proud to be a part of building home ownership across eastern South Dakota. Whether it is homebuyer education, our Pre-Purchase Appointment to educate you about your credit report, foreclosure mitigation, or our other credit counseling services, we love being a part of improving the lives of our clients and community.

Whether you need specific help or simply want to improve your situation through education, please contact us for an appointment. We are here to invest in our communities.

I will also encourage you to explore your options to ‘become more American’. Be involved. Become more connected with the other people that call this place home. There are all kinds of opportunities if we simply step out of our box and begin to connect within our communities.


written by Breck Miller

images courtesy

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