Home ownership a bogus issue
Kudos to Treasurer Wendy Wilton, along with Mayor Louras and the aldermen for improving the city of Rutland’s financial situation over the past several years. Given that Rutland City is the commercial center of our county, this is an important achievement.
Recently, I read the news that candidate and Rutland Treasurer Wilton brought up the “issue” of home ownership vs. renting, in regards to current state Treasurer Beth Pearce. I have never met Treasurer Pearce or had any contact with her and only began paying attention to the treasurer’s race over the past month. As a Vermont homeowner for 17 years, I am not exactly sure what home ownership has to do with the qualifications of the office of state treasurer. Perhaps, it could be argued that it is a measure of one’s financial investment savvy, given that buying real estate is considered an “investment.”
But, according to news reports this issue was brought up instead to question Treasurer Pearce’s commitment to Vermont, and the state’s progressive property tax system. Since candidate Wilton brought up this issue, I would like to mention a few thoughts that sprung to mind.
It so happens that a Feb. 29, 2012, press release on presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s website lists endorsements by Vermont politicians. This list includes Rutland City Treasurer Wilton. Whether the endorsement is for the “severely conservative” Romney or the moderate Mitt from the first debate, I’m not sure.
I followed the long Republican primary season, and it is well known from Mitt Romney’s limited tax records, that Romney has portions of his investments stashed away in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and in Swiss banks. The U.S. tax code is chock full of tax avoidance loopholes, and these were created via legislation by Congress over the decades. Yes, the same folks in Congress who complain about our overly complex tax system during election season. While these loopholes are “perfectly legal,” it does beg the question about Mitt Romney’s commitment to the United States and its purportedly progressive tax system, and the U.S. dollar as our form of currency (at least to this voter).
So maybe there was something else intended by Treasurer Wilton’s “home ownership question.” Is it because Beth Pearce is from Massachusetts? Well, former governor and longtime Vermont resident Jim Douglas is originally from Massachusetts. In addition, endorsee Mitt Romney was also governor of Massachusetts.
So, I am not sure why home ownership became a campaign issue after all. It has been quite a few years since I bought a home. The housing market and economy have surely changed over the past 17 years. Despite the 2007 housing bubble, home prices are still higher than in the mid-1990s. Interest rates are low. However, you can always refinance or pay ahead on principal (to lower effective interest overall), but you can’t easily lower the price of an existing mortgage. Higher home prices also makes avoiding PMI (mortgage insurance) premiums more difficult for buyers, and adds to the monthly payment amount.
Today in Rutland and Barre, there are other market considerations besides price, interest and property taxes. There is the issue of drugs and crime, which affect property values. There is the issue of flooding which existed in parts of Rutland and Barre before Tropical Storm Irene.
Given these factors, I know I would be very careful to consider all the options regarding a home purchase in the Rutland and Barre areas. I would not be swayed or pressured by an artificial deadline, like Election Day (Nov. 6) to make a home purchase.
It sounds like Beth Pearce is being prudent and carefully considering her options. It is none of our business if she rents or owns a home. Perhaps Wilton should run on her fine accomplishments in Rutland City and stay away from side issues like home ownership.
Ron Pulcer is a resident of Rutland Town.