Tax Breaks Impact Home Size

Typically Green Blizzard writes articles about how you, the carbon conscientious consumer, can minimize your carbon footprint by either making greener decisions with your purchasing power, or investing in more energy efficient appliances, or changing your eating habits, or simply screwing in an LED bulb.

Not this time. We’re focusing on how U.S. tax breaks impact home size.

This is a commentary on the U.S. tax system and how it has impacted the carbon footprint of home buyers with its built-in incentive to over-consume when buying a house. Naturally politics are interwoven throughout this issue, so Green Blizzard, being apolitical in its focus, will steer clear of any political party viewpoints and simply focus on what’s this really mean to try to be green.

The reason we are raising this matter is because it fits with one of the underlying premises of Green Blizzard and that’s trying to consume the bare minimum to maintain the lifestyle you have chosen.

Washington Post editorial writer, Charles Lane wrote a thought-provoking article about the tax breaks, the primary beneficiaries, and the impact on housing size.

He did some interesting digging into the U.S tax code’s favorable treatment of residential real estate and the associated mortgage interest and property tax deductions. Lane concluded that the tax code, initially designed to stimulate home ownership across all socioeconomic classes, especially the middle class, now disproportionately favors those who can already afford a home, the upper 20%.

Studies by an economist at Marquette University have shown that because of this residential real estate tax incentive, people are buying BIGGER residences – probably more than they need.

Lane reports that Hanson and his colleagues calculated that tax-code subsidies increase the average home size 11 percent to 18 percent above what it would have been without them, depending on location. In the Washington, D.C. metro area, the average home size would have been 1,424 square feet smaller without these subsidies, the Hanson study estimates.

This study shows that tax breaks increase home size roughly between 10-20%.

Conceptually let’s focus on the 20% bigger estimate. That’s huge when you think of it spanning across decades. That means more energy to manufacture the construction materials, construct, furnish, heat, cool, light, and maintain this extra space over the next 50-75 years. All this leads to incalculably more carbon emissions.

Green Blizzard is not advocating any particular solution to this matter, just raising another perspective on this rather complex carbon reduction challenge that we are trying to encourage everyone to tackle with every minute-by-minute decision, every day of their lives.

Just fair warning, every once is a while, someone on the Green Blizzard team will take off their green hat and foray into the more complex, the unanswerable.

So it is back to our green knitting for now.

Toss out those incandescent light bulbs and screw in an LED today!


Be sure to also read: Gift Ideas For A Green Handyman, What is Phantom Electricity?, Green Cleaning Products, Savvy Green, Energy Efficient Windows, Water Conservation Around The House,Carbon Impact of Meats, Energy Misconceptions.


About the author

Moose Mosely

Moose, (yes, that's his everyday name - at least as far as we know), writes about all sorts of green living insights. Every minute, every decision we make in our lives has some impact to our personal carbon footprint, and Moose is there to share some insights on its impact and relevance and suggests healthier alternatives.