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Housing crisis still real for many, as appeal for renting grows new research shows

A new research study shows that 70% of the public continues to believe we are still in the midst of the housing crisis.

Also, of interest to real estate investors, is that people believe the country’s housing environment is changing and home ownership is not viewed as a vehicle to wealth building that it once was. “The public believes that renting has grown in appeal while owning has declined,” according to a release from the MacArthur Foundation.

Today, nearly 6 in 10 adults (58%) believe renters can be just as successful as owners in achieving the American Dream, according to the release.

While economists and housing experts say the housing crisis is behind us,  the American people have a different perception.

New study says more Americans favor renting over buying homesThe “How Housing Matters Survey,” the second annual national survey conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that while there are some indicators that the American public’s views about the housing crisis are shifting toward the positive, large proportions of the public, seven in 10 (70%),  saying we are still in the middle of the crisis or that the worst is yet to come.

“The housing crisis that began more than five years ago has left an indelible mark on the attitudes and experiences of Americans,” Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, said in the release. “Housing affordability has driven a large share of the American people to make significant financial adjustments. Concern and insecurity about the ability of middle class Americans to maintain their footing and for people to rise up into the middle class is a central theme in America today and this research shows that housing is front and center in these concerns.”

The American people believe that the country’s housing environment is changing, according to the release.

While most non-owners (70%) aspire to own a home someday, homeownership is not viewed as the vehicle to building wealth that it once was, and the public believes that renting has grown in appeal while owning has declined, offering opportunity for real estate investors.

“Two-thirds of the public (64%) believes it is less likely today than 20 or 30 years ago, for a family to build equity and wealth through home ownership. The public is divided on whether home ownership continues to be an excellent long-term investment (50%) or whether this is no longer the case today (43%). Half of all adults (54%) believe that owning a home has become less appealing in the current environment, while a similar proportion of adults (51%) believe that renting has become more appealing,” according to the release.

The release stated, “High proportions of the public (70%) continue to believe that we are still in the midst of the housing crisis (51%) or that the worst is yet to come (19%). Only 25% believe “the housing crisis is pretty much over.” The public in 2014 is only slightly more optimistic than it was one year ago, when 77% believed we were still in the middle of the crisis or that the worst was yet to come.  More than two in five adults (42%) believe the housing market today continues to be a serious problem.

Concerns about the lack of affordable quality housing in their community are one reason why six in 10 (58%) believe government should be doing more to ensure there is both sufficient affordable quality rental housing, and housing to buy.

Hart Research Associates conducted telephone interviews, including landlines and cell phones, of 1355 adults between April 8 and April 14. An oversample of owners and renters who pay more than 30% of their income on housing was taken, to gain insight into the experience and attitude of those whose housing situation may be considered distressed. Survey highlights include:

Majorities of Americans believe that in their community, it is challenging to find affordable quality housing – whether renting (58% very/somewhat challenging) or buying (59% very/somewhat challenging.) Respondents overwhelmingly agree that it is challenging for families that live at or below the poverty level to find affordable quality housing (72% think this is very challenging), but the concern goes well beyond those living in poverty.

The How Housing Matters Survey finds broad recognition among the public that accessing affordable quality housing is difficult for many families within their communities, including families with average income (58% very/somewhat challenging), young people just getting started in the labor force (75% very/somewhat challenging), and a family with children trying to find housing near quality schools (60% very/somewhat challenging).

A majority of Americans believe that government can do much to solve the problem of housing affordability, yet do not favor either home ownership or rental housing over the other. Six in ten (61%) believe that “a great deal” or “a fair amount” can be done to solve the problem of housing affordability, including 70% of renters and 57% of owners. But the public does not wish government policy to tilt in favor of either owning or renting. A solid majority (58%) wants the federal government to invest in both equally. At the same time, Americans understand certain tradeoffs in federal support for housing: more favor (47%) rather than oppose (40%) the elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for second homes and homes valued over $500,000 and “believe that the money saved should be used to fund federal government programs that increase access to low- and moderate-income housing.”

“While home ownership continues to be the dream for most renters, this year’s How Housing Matters survey confirms our initial findings from last year: Americans want a more even-handed approach to housing policy,” Garin said in the release.

“The continuing stresses felt by the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the housing recession are real and profound,” Julia M. Stasch, MacArthur’s Vice President of U.S. Programs, said in the release. “This survey provides insight into the substantial burden of costly and unstable housing, particularly for low and middle-income families. It is clear that Americans believe more can and should be done to improve housing affordability for renters and owners, and that government should take action to invest in both equally.”

Read the full release here.

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