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April 29th, 2011

Should renters be restricted from voting?

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For RentAllow me to start off by answering that question with a resounding “no.”

Recent comments from Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips have ruffled a lot of feathers. Mr. Phillips, basing his comments off the language of our Constitution, questioned whether Americans who rent should be allowed to vote.

HSH.com blogger Peter Miller published the text version of Mr. Phillips’ comments (which were made on Tea Party Nation Radio):

As Judson Phillips explains, the Founding Fathers “put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.”

You can listen to the audio of Phillips’s comments on Miller’s blog–OurBroker.com– as well.

The American Tenants Association fired back with these comments:

Bill Deegan, ATENA’s founder and Executive Director, expressed dismay at Mr. Phillips’ remarks. “The Tea Party’s assault on our country’s 100 million renters is an unprecedented and unwarranted attack. What’s ironic about Mr. Phillips’ comments is that the original Tea Party was motivated by the call ‘no taxation without representation.’ Well I’d like to clue Mr. Phillips in on a little secret. Renters pay taxes. We can start with federal, state and local income taxes, and continue through to sales and use taxes and in some states taxes on rent. As I’m sure Mr. Phillips is aware the list is endless.”

Mr. Deegan went on to say that “to deprive renters of the right to vote is ridiculous on its face. The Founding Fathers also didn’t allow women or Blacks to vote. Is Mr. Phillips suggesting that the right to vote should be taken away from these citizens as well?”

Mr. Deegan’s concerns were supported by ATENA’s Executive Vice President Chris Carlsen who disputed Mr. Phillips’ claim that only property owners have a “vested interest” in their communities.

“The Tea Party should know that within the ranks of their own membership are thousands upon thousands of renters. Would Mr. Phillips deny the right to vote to his own membership? In addition to paying their own fair share of taxes, renters contribute millions of hours of volunteer time to their communities. I think that qualifies as indicating a vested interest,” Mr. Carlsen concluded.

The truth is, Mr. Phillips’ comments come at a time when the number of renters is skyrocketing. Rents around the country are on the rise as more and more renters enter the market. Besides the more typical rental audience (low-income families and younger Americans just starting out), many of this country’s “new” renters were once homeowners.

All those foreclosed households need to live somewhere, right? With all the restrictions on how soon foreclosed homeowners can own again, these borrowers will be forced to rent for years and years. Some may never own homes again. Even areas of the country, like Denver, that haven’t been as affected by the housing crisis have seen rents rise as vacancies have fallen to decade-long lows.

Frankly, I think the notion that renters shouldn’t be allowed to vote is ludicrous. How about you, what do you think? Leave us a comment below.

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About the HSH Blog

HSH.com's daily blog focuses on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets. Our mission is to relate how changes in mortgage rates and housing policy, as well as the latest financial news, impacts consumers, homebuyers and industry insiders alike. Our 30-plus years of experience in the mortgage industry gives us an edge as we break down the latest changes in an ever-changing market.

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Tim Manni

Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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