An owned house ordinarily is to be preferred to a rented one. The family has the maintenance of the house directly within its control, and feels free to go ahead with permanent improvements. It knows that it is not going to be evicted, and that the better condition a house is in, the better price it will bring if it comes to be sold.
Buying a home and reducing the debt on it is an incentive to thrift. A family with a substantial equity in a home is on its ways toward financial independence, and has a justifiable pride, and a more assured standing in the community. But a home with too great a value in relation to the family's income is a poor one to buy, for the attempt to pay for it may involve an exhausting and depressing struggle, and end in failure.
Most of the desirable and undesirable elements for one-family houses that have been mentioned apply also to apartments. Maintenance of the structure is not within the direct control of the tenant. A family in an apartment house usually suffers disadvantages in the loss of privacy, inaccessibility to outdoor play space for children (although play space may be near by, it is not so convenient as a back yard), and must crowd itself into smaller quarters. The cash outlay for services is greater, and children miss much invaluable training through not having space for work benches, and not having instructive tasks about the house to perform.
Although there are many apartments which conform to good standards of light and ventilation there are many which do not. It is, in fact, the lack of light and air inherent in large closely-built habitations that makes them so often unfit to live in. Rooms opening on small courts or shafts are often but little better than the old unventilated inside rooms which have been so universally condemned.
The majority of American houses meat reasonable standards of shelter from the elements, privacy, space, light, ventilation, and heating. There are still millions of them, however, which do not have plumbing or good artificial or natural light, which are overcrowded, and which expose their occupants cruelly to extremes of cold or heat. The houses included for one or more reasons in the deficient group stand as a challenge, not only to the families living in them, but to the communities in which they are situated, and to the entire nation.
In a still larger group of homes, health and character suffer to a certain extent, and home life fails to reach its finest fruition because the families in them do not make the best of what they have. "Plain living and high thinking" is an excellent motto, but its author does not forget that maintaining a good standard of plain living is a task that calls for a goodly share of our best brains and energy.