The Political Culture of Homeownership
Owning a home has become an integral principle in the pursuit of the American Dream. It is everyone’s desire to live in his/her house with family members. Rich people opt to buy such assets while a majority of Americans prefer using mortgages as their route to homeownership. Southern California is a tough environment for would be homeowners owing to the high housing costs and shortage of such units. Suburbs are common in this area and are characterized by homeowners who are homogenous and are predominantly white. These developments have increased the tension among communities in the metropolitan state and affected the political discourse. Immigration has increased interactions among whites and other minorities (Paul 26). However, they all participate in the electoral process although politicians tend to advance the agenda of certain constituents. Differences in homeownership patterns in Southern California have stroked racial prejudices and shaped the political narrative of the region in a manner that mirrors the larger United States.
Role of suburban Home Ownership in Southern California Political Culture
Suburbs located in Southern California are found in areas such as Orange County, Ventura County, San Diego County and Los Angeles County. They are gated communities with distinct architectural designs and inhabited by affluent populations. This region exhibits a 50% higher cost of living standard than the national average and the median income in most households is significantly greater. California has experienced a huge influx of immigrants for decades ranging from Asians to Latinos. Most of these people became attached to the state because of its socioeconomic potential fueled by the presence of many industries. White people felt an urge to create neighborhoods that separated them from the rest and the growth of suburbs was realized. An increase in the population led to the creation of more suburbs for different ethnicities and the rise of an urban demographic (Sides 35). The quest for owning a home increases the belief in a person’s ability to chart his/her destiny because it displays independence. This attitude has transitioned into the political arena by laying an emphasis on the personality of an individual rather than dependence on party affiliation in order to win elective office.
Politicians in Southern California are judged by their individual resume and performance because people living in the suburbs acknowledge personal success over benefitting from communal welfare/institutions.Homeownership in the suburbs is a sign of prosperity and has influenced the growing support for policies aimed at economic gain. A majority of the populace in this region back progressive politics that seek continuity of capitalism. For a long time, the electorate have found Democratic Party policies ideal because they represent their desire for financial success. The diverse nature of suburban households masks a brimming passion for individual responsibility devoid of huge external assistance. People yearn for prosperous lifestyles without placing too much expectations on governmental assistance. This mentality has fueled their support for limited government ideals propagated by conservative forces. For example, President Reagan received overwhelming support from this region because of his Republican proposition for minimal government control over people’s lives.
The vast majority of homeowners in these suburbs take great pride in their accomplishments and develop a more passionate attachment to the country for facilitating their success.This attitude has entrenched their patriotic spirit and is evidenced by their support for bipartisanship on issues affecting the nation. In such instances, their political affiliations are aligned with the clarion call for falling and rising as one. Homes built in these suburbs share some common features: fences and gates. It is an indication of the population’s belief in the power of people to organize themselves when faced with a challenge. Such structural organization represents order and provides a sense of security which is transferable into the political sphere. Emphasis is laid on the ability of politicians to solve the problems facing the electorate without shifting blame on institutions and bureaucracy.
Home ownership in these communities helped solve problems such as crime by creating safe environments for residents. Civility and hospitality are frequent traits witnessed in these suburbs. The political culture resultant from these developments is one that values morality among the politicians (Paul 44). Elected officials are supposed to display greater affinity for virtues in their behavior. It is done in recognition of their value system. Moral decency has become engrained in politics in Southern California because of its appeal to the masses. This profile is replicated in many cities countrywide where elected representatives are constantly monitored during formal and informal occasions. Americans exhibit a relentless desire for leaders with a high moral standing because of their ability to set an example for many generations. High levels of organization, discipline and sacrifice are behaviors attributable to people living in suburbs. Their expectations from the political class are justified and areas with sufficient goodwill have registered significant progress.
Focus on Single Family Homes
Los Angeles witnessed huge interests from land developers after World War II. Construction of homes and office complexes became common while agriculture and oil were the major industries. The large migrant population present in the city is replicated in the South. Several people immigrated to this area in search of jobs and within a short period, there was an expanded workforce. It is unfortunate that such a large pool of people mustered a weak labor union that could not adequately address the concerns and welfare of the members. The initial fascination with a suburban model was centered on the construction of detached single family homes. An increase in population resulted in the development of condominiums in order to offset a crippling housing shortage. In most instances, affordability of the single homes was dominated by rich white people, which exposed minorities to housing challenges. America faced turbulent times in the post-war period and a looming accommodation crisis prompted federal and local intervention in the housing market because of a rise in property prices. Housing and Rent Act of 1947 and Emergency Housing Act of 1946 provided specific suspensions over the rights of landlords and businesses in the determination of house policies. There was concern over the proliferation of single family homes which occupied large geographical areas yet the increasing population placed a strain on the available land.
Some people were forced to move into areas further from the suburbs where they built multi-storey structures (Nicolaides 30). Conflicts arose about accessibility of suburban homes to different ethnicities and the need for adoption of a better housing scheme which was compatible to the changing geopolitical landscape. The Fair Employment and Housing Act served to address these shortcomings and helped shape the aesthetic value of Southern California. The single family home has become a focal topic within this region because of the dynamic housing market. Competing political ideologies favoring adoption of high rise buildings against those seeking a retention of the suburban model have increased the scrutiny on these structures. A mixture of public accommodation and private homeownership is visible in this area. The struggle for provision of housing to a large segment of the population resulted in the subdivision of single family homes whereby landlords permitted their occupancy by more than one tenant.
The 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act that prohibited discrimination in rental properties containing four units or more signified a delicate balancing act between providing home owners the autonomy in making business decisions and securing the rights of individuals to fair accommodation (Wiese 18). It is a shift that has resonated into the political sphere because of the clash in ideology amongst the stakeholders. The elderly form a bigger segment of the population and prefer the suburban format while the millenials have a liberal view of the issue and support the transition into condominiums. Striking a balance for these vested groups has roped politicians and the future of the single family home is the main attraction. SoCal has a high workforce and student ratio because of the industrial revolution and most of them people prefer cohabiting. For example, high student loans and stagnating minimum wage exert pressure on the respective groups which forces them to embrace cost-cutting measures. Single family homes provide an opportunity for this arrangement. Such special interest groups are attractive to politicians although their desires place them in confrontation with property owners because of the home ownership affiliated fees. Abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act by organized labor is evident in the numerous lawsuits pitting workers and developers. Insistence on the latter’s construction of buildings using unionized employees has limited single family home expansions and driven property prices up. Such an outcome is detrimental to SoCal’s socioeconomic growth and provides impetus to the conflict.
The middle class segment within Southern California is huge and is representative of the challenges most Americans face. For instance, lower income levels are rampant throughout the US which create high costs of living (Sides 62). Geopolitical narratives on this issue are parallel because of the strong desire for a capitalistic market rather than continuous socialist policies. Such single family homes form an ideal picture of a modern lifestyle although rising costs make them elusive to so many people. Passage of Proposition 14 restricted home ownership while the construction of multi-unit properties attempt to reduce housing shortages. The former seeks to retain the region’s dominance in offering anyone an opportunity for owning a home while the latter enhances population distribution.
Existence of the large suburban landscape in this location is hinged on the 80% allocation of land towards construction of single family homes. Political entities weave their policies around this prohibitive zoning mechanism which ensures that most of the electorate lives in these structures. Some local authorities permit ordinances for the erection of several detached units on a singular lot in furtherance of goal. Debates arising from such regulations in political circles consider the ever increasing appreciative value of condominiums in comparison to single family homes. The main attraction for these homes is the owner’s possession of the land on which they are built. Democrats and Republicans are cognizant of this benefit and strive to assure their supporters of maintaining this tradition. Recent protests against big corporations in the US revealed the disdain for corrupt organizations and empathy for the majority of American victims exploited by them. Dithering on the best solution for providing adequate housing is a sign of state capture which compounds the problem.
Post-war immigration into California resulted in the addition of blacks, Asians, Mexicans and Japanese. White people felt threatened because the mixed cultural environment disrupted their way of living. In most counties within Southern California, minorities were uneducated. They lacked special skills that could enable them gain employment in the industries and some had to settle for menial jobs. A vast majority were unemployed and resorted to crime as a means of eking a living (Wiese 58). Such destructive behavior made the neighborhoods unsafe for other people and forced relevant authorities to initiate the construction of suburbs as a way of escaping this menace. Isolation of races in this manner provided whites with comfort because within their secluded neighborhoods, they could live a crime-free lifestyle. This era also experienced the enforcement of Jim Crow rules which enshrined racial segregation within the US.
An integral part of this legislation was the denial of minority groups the right to equal treatment and housing (Self 41). Such people were considered inferior and could not live amongst whites. Single family homes situated in suburbs became an attractive option for eliminating such contact. The Civil Rights movement sought a reversal of this trend by laying an emphasis on the equal treatment of all races. This prompted the signing of the Civil Rights Act that guaranteed equity in the housing sector too. Minorities have had socioeconomic problems for a long time.Income inequalities are rampant in most of their households which makes the soaring property prices a challenge to their living conditions. Political rhetoric in favor of marginalized groups is anchored on the creation of job opportunities in order to boost their income levels. It is only through economic empowerment that this demographic can find the properties affordable and the political establishment is keen on attainment of this goal.
Interventions by the Federal Housing Administration in SoCal properties involved denial of loans for properties without racial covenants. Revocations of broker licenses for real estate agents was another option available to this department and was meted on officials that allowed neighborhood integration. The use of legal means in blocking access of these homes to minorities became a normal routine and facilitated the rise of suburbs as white communities. People from other races were seen as outsiders and to date, racial tensions still persist in this area. For example, the notion that blacks do not “fit” in a suburban setting is commonly held although advancements in race relations have reduced its application. Minorities have relied on entitlement programs for a long time. This mentality has stalled their commitment to hard work and made them lethargic. SoCal was envisioned as a place where people are rewarded for their toil by becoming homeowners in exclusive communities. The contrast between these cultures fueled a rise in single family homes because of the need to set an example of the benefits of a rigorous work ethic in life. Elimination of this stereotype is an ongoing exercise within its political culture. Politicians relentlessly profess the value of pursuing the American Dream and using these structures as a focal point. Owning a house with a picket fence is a widely known symbol of success and the suburbs located here reaffirm this concept.
Affordable housing complexes for military veterans were made available although consideration of an individual’s race was rife. Such public accommodations were designed to maximize on the available land. The multi-storey units provided a departure from the initial housing plans and aided in the widespread proliferation of single family homes. Grouping of minorities in the same vicinity was the preferred mode of resettlement (Self 29). It enabled wealthy individuals and property developers a chance for displaying the nature of exquisite lifestyles yearned by many people through creating special zones. Political discourse in this region lays an emphasis on the preservation of the aesthetic beauty of Southern California. Different actors propose the implementation of fair housing policies but are reluctant to endorse the uprooting of certain homes for building units with greater occupancy levels. Minorities have a tendency for registering higher birth rates. Their large families need bigger homes while the huge numerical strength demand more housing units.
Dedication of single family homes to the dominant race is attractive because it isolates them from causing unnecessary congestion. People living in suburbs cherish the peace, cleanliness and convenience of such locations (Nicolaides 36). They detest noisy environments and oppose the use of their taxes in welfare programs especially by an administration they dislike. Opposition to this development continues to-date through liberal and conservative institutions. Democrats embrace the creation of social safety nets for cushioning marginalized groups within the society. Opponents of this approach dislike this concept because it erases the will for working hard. Historical records indicate simmering racial strains between these entities based on mutual hatred for each other. Identification of single homes as symbols of an ideal family life is a source of friction especially in SoCal which is inhabited by people from diverse backgrounds. In other instances, racial transformations occurred and neighborhoods were created as pilot/satellite centers for signaling the commitment of stakeholders to a just society. Such zones were identical to earlier designs and helped increase property prices across the state. Aggressive expansion policies attract further influx of minority groups into an area and heighten racial tensions. Failure to curb these fissures is detrimental to the creation of a cohesive nation.
The United States constitution urges Americans to seek a more perfect union amongst its ethnic groups because of its long history of racial discrimination. Home ownership is a vital principle and belief inculcated into everyone’s mind because it provides fiscal and financial security. Southern California has been zoned into exclusive single family homes located in suburbs. Inhabitants of these neighborhoods value independence and the ability to control one’s environment. These traits have gained traction in the political arena where liberal and conservative forces compete for the adoption of two divergent market policies. Racial tensions that separate minorities from whites have dogged the communities for decades and income inequalities are apparent. High property prices within this geographic location highlight the struggle for promoting a suburban lifestyle against a fast rising population with higher demand for housing units. These issues coalesce in SoCal but greater examination of the country’s geopolitical landscape offers similar experiences.
Nicolaides, Becky. My Blue Heaven:Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965. University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Paul, Sandul. California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State. West Virginia University Press, 2014.
Self, Robert.American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland. Princeton University Press, 2003.
Sides, Josh. L.A. City Limits: African Americans in Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. University of California Press, 2004.
Wiese, Andrew. Places of their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century. University of Chicago Press, 2004.
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