MacArthur Foundation: The housing crisis is not over for 7 in 10 Americans

Most want government to do more to make housing affordable

While steady home price appreciation may have real estate professionals and economists thinking the housing market is on the mend, it does not not feel that way to the vast majority of homeowners and renters, according to a survey from the MacArthur Foundation.

Seven in 10 respondents believed we are still in the midst of the housing crisis (51 percent) or that the worst is yet to come (19 percent). Only a quarter agreed that the crisis is “pretty much over.” More than 2 in 5 think the housing market continues to be a serious problem, the foundation said.

New condos image via Shutterstock.
New condos image via Shutterstock.

Its second annual How Housing Matters Survey was conducted via phone interviews over cellphones and landlines in April. It had 1,355 respondents and included an oversample of owners and renters who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing “to gain insight into the experience and attitude of those whose housing situation may be considered distressed,” the foundation said.

The survey found that over the past three years, 52 percent of U.S. adults have had to make at least one sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage. That includes getting a second job, putting off saving for retirement, cutting back on health care and healthy foods, running up credit card debt, or moving to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools. Nearly half of whites (49 percent) said they had made a sacrifice, compared with 63 percent of African-Americans and 64 percent of Hispanics.

Among renters and owners paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, about 62 percent of distressed owners and 3 in 4 distressed renters said they had made at least one of these trade-offs in the past three years, the foundation said.

The majority of respondents said it was “very” or “somewhat” challenging to access affordable quality housing for not only families at or below the poverty line, but also those with average income, young people just starting out in the labor force, and those trying to find housing near quality schools.

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Nearly 6 in 10 respondents said the government should be doing more to ensure there’s enough affordable quality housing to both buy and rent. Nearly half (47 percent) favored getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction for second homes and those over $500,000; 40 percent opposed that elimination. Those in favor “believe that the money saved should be used to fund federal government programs that increase access to low- and moderate-income housing,” the foundation said.

The continuing stresses felt by the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the housing recession are real and profound."

“The continuing stresses felt by the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the housing recession are real and profound,” said Julia M. Stasch, MacArthur’s vice president of U.S. programs, in a statement.

“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.”

The survey indicated homeownership had lost some of its luster among the public. Most non-owners aspired to buy a home someday (70 percent), but nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believed it is less likely today than 20 or 30 years ago for a family to build equity and wealth through homeownership, the foundation said.

Half said homeownership continues to be an excellent long-term investment, but 43 percent said that was no longer the case today. Nearly 6 in 10 respondents said renters can be just as successful as owners in achieving the American dream.


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