Momus asks, “Brick-and-mortar conservatism?”

As a homeowner who fancies herself politically aware, this is something I’ve often pondered but never really developed beyond a squawk. I’m delighted to see that Momus has taken on the task … read on.

Is there a link between owning a house and conservatism? Intuitively I’d say yes, there is, and that conversely there’s a link between renting and radicalism. Take a look, for instance, at this ranking of the percentage of people renting in various cities:

Berlin 87
Geneva 85
Amsterdam 83
Hamburg 78
Vienna 76
New York 70
San Francisco 65
Chicago 60
Brussels 57
Copenhagen 50
Stockholm 49
Helsinki 47
London 41
Oslo 30
Barcelona 30
Dublin 28
Athens 27

Aren’t the cities at the top of that list some of the most radical? Surely it’s no accident that people in cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, New York and San Francisco prefer to rent than buy? Surely it changes the whole tenor and texture of civic life in those cities?

The Huz and I visited Berlin for a few days last year and it quickly became our favourite city ever. Although there’s a great deal of commerce (and a painful history which is not hidden at all), the city is built for people first and the well-planned balance of old and new architecture is incredibly thoughtful. It’s simply an inviting space. We felt welcome and our humanity honoured.

I guess I want to know, in places like Berlin – is it a choice that people rent or is it a necessity because of an extreme concentration of wealth and/or lack of physical space to build new homes (think Vancouver)? Or in a place such as Amsterdam, is it the people’s general commitment to find happiness as opposed to trying to find happiness in work? Perhaps there’s not one answer.

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