Many potential homebuyers or sellers may be waiting on the sidelines because they think the housing market is still in the gutter.

Six out of 10 Americans think that we are either “still in the middle” of the housing crisis or “the worst is yet to come,” according to a survey released by the MacArthur Foundation.

That reflects some improvement in sentiment from a year ago, when a combined 70 percent thought the housing crisis was still in full swing. But the general pessimism continues to indicate “ongoing concerns about housing affordability as well as lingering trauma,” the MacArthur Foundation said.

“Decent housing at an affordable price remains a challenge for an increasing number of Americans, even after the recession has formally ended,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch in a statement.

“People want and expect solutions to the housing crisis to be a higher priority for both national and local leaders alike,” she added.

Close to 8 out of 10 respondents said that it’s either much more likely or somewhat more likely for banks to foreclosure on homeowners today than it was a generation ago. And 3 in 5 said that it’s somewhat to much less likely for families today to build equity and wealth through homeownership compared to 20 to 30 years ago.

Decreasing housing affordability is another factor that may be eroding the appeal of homeownership. Eight in 10 Americans said that housing affordability is a problem, with 6 out of 10 characterizing it as a very (36 percent) or fairly (24 percent) serious problem.

That concern “transcends age, educational attainment, income and even political party affiliation,” the survey found.

Half of all adults said they would like officials in Washington, D.C., to treat housing affordability as a very or fairly high priority, and more than half said they want local leaders to give the issue that level of attention.

But only 14 percent of respondents believe national and local officials treat housing affordability as a high priority.

The “building blocks of success — having a good job, decent housing and the ability to save for a secure future — are considered harder to attain than they were a generation ago,” said Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey on behalf of the MacArthur Foundation.

That’s fueling pessimism about social mobility, including a belief that it’s more common for Americans to slide from the middle class into a lower economic class than the reverse.

“The idea that downward mobility is more likely today than upward mobility turns the American dream on its head, and is an indicator of how badly confidence has been eroded,” Garin said.

But what’s generally regarded as a key component of the American dream still hasn’t shed its allure altogether.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they think buying a home is an excellent long-term investment, and 7 out of 10 aspire to own one.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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