The 1923 Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture sum marizes the situation in regard to farm ownership and tenancy: "All but a small proportion of the landlords have grown up from the soil and possess direct experience with farming. More than a third are engaged in agricultural occupations, nearly another third are retired farmers, and the remaining third are in non agricultural occupations, mostly country bankers, merchants and professional men in the country towns and villages who have either come into farm ownership through inheritance or marriage, or have purchased farms for purposes of investment or specula tion. Fifteen per cent of the owners of rented farms are women, for the most part widows or daughters of deceased farmers. Corporations do not comprise an important class of landlords. Probably not more than o% of the rented farms are owned by absentee landlords, and apparently there has been little change in this regard since 1900. There is but little concentration of owner ship, except in the plantation region of the South, and apparently for the country as a whole there has been no increase in concen tration." However, as in England and in other older countries generally we find here and there those who prefer tenancy to ownership because the capital put into equipment yields a larger return than that put into the land. American public opinion, however, looks somewhat askance upon tenancy of this sort even if it does yield the farmer a larger income. Generally speaking, when tenants have acquired a sufficient amount of property, they prefer to buy farms rather than to hire them from the owner even though hiring might yield a larger income. Until recently the importance of rising land values in the United States made it desirable and profitable to own the land.
It is beginning to be seen then that a certain amount of tenancy in the United States is a necessary good rather than a necessary evil although this must be qualified somewhat. Since the agricul tural depression a new problem in connection with agricultural land has arisen. A large number of farms—no authentic figures are available to indicate how many—have fallen into the hands of trust companies, banks and insurance companies and others be cause many farmers could not meet the payments on their mortgages. Just what to do with these farms is a problem. The banks and trust companies do not want to sell in a period of de pression. It means that some sort of farm management and ten ancy must be developed until it is possible to sell more profitably. There is no evidence, however, that tenancy of this sort will dis place the American ideal of family-sized, freehold farms.
Throughout the development of America home ownership has been and still is the ideal, though there has been a very limited and now passing use of the ground rent system as in the city of Baltimore. But in rapidly growing cities with very mobile popula tions tenancy must inevitably occupy a large place. It tends to increase as cities grow in size and the character of the population changes. In 192o the percentage of rented homes in cities of 25,00o to 50,000 was 57.3 ; this increased with the size of the city until in cities of one million or more 78.8% were rented. For the country as a whole 36.9% of the homes, not on farms, were owned in 189o; in 192o, 40.9% were owned. Of those owned were mortgaged in 1890 and 39.7% in 1920. Thus an increase both in home ownership and in the indebtedness on homes has occurred.
For the developments arising out of the problems of urban land tenure and the necessity of providing adequate housing accommo dation see HOUSING, section Housing in the United States.