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Abstract

The American bias that privileges owners over tenants has its roots in early US history, in the colonial practices of limiting suffrage to property owners, and in the formation of a Constitution that protected the propertied minority from the propertyless majority. While the property test for suffrage eventually disappeared, the property bias persists, just as other barriers of gender, national origin, poverty, religion and race remain pervasive in our society. The impacts of this bias are felt not only by tenants but also by their landlords and is exercised through community organizations dominated by owners as well as common practices of zoning and tax policy. Three recent property tax bills of the New Jersey legislature illuminate the tenuous status of renters in tax policy. Even the most cursory review of recent survey data reveals the degree to which the stigma of rentership is inappropriate. This paper argues that America's renters are its owners too, and planners should foster policies that enforce greater equity among renters and owners.

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