When we discuss homeownership, we inevitably visualize it as a physical structure, and possibly a nuclear, heteronormative family living inside. Narratives center on the growing “trend” of people purchasing homes later in life, increasing mortgage rates,  and the chronic housing shortage. California’s Department of Housing Urban Development starts their Homeowners webpage with, “Owning a home is a big part of the American Dream.” 
Yet so many who work within the housing ecosystem in California know homeownership to be much more complicated, expansive, and transformative than that visualization. On National Homeowners Day, we asked our staff: What does homeownership mean to you? 
Cerena, Director of Programs
First, the reality of it is a bit daunting and sometimes sad in that – it’s really expensive to own a home in California. For most folks and myself included, it means a sense of stability knowing that our housing system right now is so volatile. Owning a home really provides that sense that you’re not going to lose a home. And that even with that, there’s still the possibility of knowing how expensive mortgage rates, et cetera, are.
When I’m trying to be more aspirational and holistic in thinking about home ownership, I hope that it is something that folks start to see as one way to build your roots, but really build your roots in your identity and the community that you’re in. 
It provides a space for you to be responsible not only to the home of the structure itself, but the land that your home is on, which hopefully can create a stronger connection to earth. I have a backyard that provides me a space to connect with a bit of the earth that I normally don’t get to during my day when I’m working. Hopefully I can build a garden soon. 
Going back to community, it’s so important that the longer you are in a space, it provides you the opportunity to connect with those around you.
The neighborhood I’m in, my partner has been living in since he was born. And some of our neighbors have seen him grow up in this home. And I think that that is a beautiful and lovely thing and something that I hope people can connect to what home ownership is and move away from seeing it as just individual buildings or sites that add value, financial value. I think it can be so much more. And I hope that if folks see home ownership as more of a living thing in the regenerative lens, then we might not be so extractive and, and hoarding when it comes to homes and property.
Deepti, Digital Communications Manager
Can homeownership be removed from the individual? Modern day homeownership can’t be seen without acknowledging America’s past of violent colonialism and displacement. Indigenous people lived and still live communally, meaning, their land, resources, everything belonged to everyone. 
Everything belonged to everyone, and the American government not only made them “move” but began the privatization of property and homeownership. That spiraled into gentrification, redlining and using highways as a tool of segregation.
And that is where we’re at now, in which only a select few people can own a home and have that generational wealth passed down. And even then it is not a guarantee. To me, homeownership isn’t individual. It’s communal, it’s something everyone should have and everyone can own together. 
I’ve never been a homeowner. And at this point in my life, sometimes it feels like a fantasy. When I lived alone, I was really lucky to have beautiful, very loving neighbors. They were recent Vietnamese immigrants. They made me food when I was sick. They watched my dog and sometimes I would watch their child when they had to work. And I would love for homeownership to capture this communal feeling for everyone.
Devani, Program Manager
To me, being a homeowner means having responsibilities that I honestly know nothing about. I imagine it also means being able to paint your walls freely, having a garden in your backyard, having a lemon tree. It also means being able to care for your loved ones and providing them with a warm space and it means spending a whole bunch of money. And I think most importantly, it means being able to pass something down.
Hannah, Deputy Director
My partner and I just bought our first house last year after renting for many years. And I was excited about so many things. But really thinking about home ownership, it’s less ownership and more stewardship for me. 
We moved into a very old house that needed a lot of love. And as we thought about the changes to make to the building and what we’re going to do, I really thought about how can we bless this neighborhood through the work that we’re doing just on our home and our yard, how can we improve what we have so that whoever takes on this home after us knows that it’ll be safe and inviting and beautiful and nurturing. 
Even thinking about how are we treating the soil in the yard so that it will continue to nurture the trees that we plant even far beyond the time that we’re here. Our house is 100 years old next year and I hope that it continues on beyond that. And so thinking about all those families that are going to come in the future, hopefully and live here after us. How are we setting them up through the choices that we’re making today? That was really important to me. It was the driving philosophy and the design and updating of our home. 
The other thing that homeownership means to me is a commitment to be in a place long enough to really sew yourself into the fabric of the neighborhood. When you’re renting, at least for me, I always felt a little reluctant to get to know people or commit to them because they never knew when I was gonna move again. Owning our home feeling was really about committing to being in this place. And that completely changed my orientation around–OK I really want to get to know my neighbors and reach out and create a community right here. 
I think one of my favorite days we got two requests from neighbors to borrow things or help things within just a couple of hours. And that was hugely meaningful to me because it feels like we belong, we’re here, we can help each other. 
I really love that feeling and that is a huge contributor to how I think about home. It’s somewhere where you know the folks that you’re around, you know what they like, you know, who they are. You can say their names when you pass them in the morning, taking their kids to school. And I really love that.
Jenny, Program Manager
Jenny reflected on homeownership, expressing that it favors those who come from stable families with income; provides another story of have vs have nots; and that it’s a huge journey that is difficult to figure out without good connections or family to lean on. 
Sometimes you may not be buying the home for yourself first. Especially for some immigrant families; you ensure that your parents have a stable home first and then you may pursue owning your own home. I know a number of friends who have been in that situation either helping co-sign the mortgage or buying the home under your name, but you gift it to your parents.
But sometimes I think in homeownership for immigrant families, it’s almost a conversation of the entirety of the family about owning a home. It’s definitely a sign of respect and love for your parents to be thinking in that way. 
I wouldn’t say I am doing that, but it has definitely been prevalent in what’s happening in my own family and others within my circle. Sometimes the homeownership is an individual issue, which I’ve noticed has been a case for families who are more well established here, but it becomes a family issue. It’s almost a marker of your success, in your career as well as your life to say that you’ve been able to reach the point to provide for yourself as well as your family.
And it’s always family before yourself, especially with the background that I come from. So it’s a very interesting mixed bag having a foot in both worlds, seeing how I would think about owning a home, and what comes from my parents. 
Jeremy, Executive Director
Being a homeowner means so many things. It’s about security and confidence, knowing that each day you are waking up in a place that is yours. It’s about independence and having the freedom to put your personal stamp on where you live because you own it. It’s about stability and the ability, for example, for your kids if you have them to go to the same school year after year with classmates that will become lifelong friends. It’s about wealth building since, for so many of us, a home is an asset that appreciates and is the most valuable thing we’ll ever own.
And “owning” a home is also about connecting to a place, a community. In this context, one does not have to necessarily own a home in a financial sense to have a sense of connection and obligation to where it is you are from. It’s about seeing yourself as connected to people, history, and the land. It’s about having roots, whether they’ve been there for generations or they’ve recently been established. It’s about being a steward and giving back and nurturing where it is you live as the place nurtures and enlivens you.

Kurt, Senior Manager of Operations

I think being a Californian homeowner means a lot different than what it used to mean, especially during this time of limited supply housing and high housing prices. It continues to be a dream for many but becomes more and more out of reach each year. I think home ownership means having a place that you can call home, that you feel more permanent, not worried about having to relocate. I think there is a financial aspect to it as well, not just kind of the immediate hardship to get the home, but once having the home, there could be more of a belief of financial stability and having an asset that you could fall back on or utilize to help continue to improve your life situation.

Victor, Engagement Associate

For me, to be a California homeowner is to aim for “right-sizing” or to live responsibly within your means– in harmony with natural ecological systems and with care for the social fabric of your wider community. I want to move away from this individualistic idea of homeownership to one that is about strengthening society at large, as well as our relationship to our planet.

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Alex Coba

Communications Associate

As a proud California native from Stockton, Alex brings a wealth of experience and a versatile skill set. He has a solid communication background with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Chico. Alex is adept at strategic communications and media relations, with experience gathering and sharing stories from his local communities that uplift the unique spirit and values of those places. He is excited to join Build It Green, where he can apply his talents to further BIG’s mission to help communities across California thrive.