The increased cost of building and the general advance in rentals make the expenditure for shelter a large one.
The question whether homes should be owned or rented is a vital one. Ownership is possible for comparatively few, but there is probably nothing that contributes more to the upbuilding of a community and the development of good citizenship than the permanent residence of families in localities. The pride of the members is enlisted in the home, its surroundings and general community welfare. This sense of ownership makes a house more a home although real home spirit is not confined to ownership of buildings. There are of course advantages and disadvantages of ownership, and these should be carefully weighed. Preference for fresh air, more space, less crowded conditions even if they necessitate daily travel, have driven people of limited incomes and certain ideals from the crowded cities to the suburbs in search of homes. When it is possible it is certainly much more advantageous to own than to rent a home, when living means the attainment of certain ideals in the lives of the members of the family.
In deciding upon the proper expenditure, we must take into account the location, whether convenient to business, school, and church, sanitary conditions in surroundings and in the house or apartment, the appearance of the house and the attractiveness of the neighborhood as well as its convenience and healthfulness. The house should be adapted to the needs of the family and selected with this thought in mind. See the companion volume, "Shelter and Clothing," Chapters II and III.
It has been estimated that 20 per cent of incomes ranging from $500 to $5000 will secure a home, not including operating expenses, with the proper sanitary conditions and one which will contribute to a right standard of living. If necessary to secure healthful surroundings more than 20 per cent may need to be spent, but 25 per cent of the income is the limit of the amount to be spent upon rent unless this also includes heat (as in many apartments) when as much as 28 per cent may be so spent. If more than this is paid, it is practically impossible to avoid debt when any unforeseen contingency arises. One thrifty German woman used 30 per cent of the small family income for rent, in order to have more bedrooms than most tenement-house dwellers can afford. She did make ends meet by working until midnight at the family sewing, and tailoring; but though she was the very soul of thrift in regard to food, and had never called in a doctor, she could not save money until the children began to earn.