Housing Survey Confirms: Americans Still Worried

Housing Patterns
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Nearly 20% of Americans believe that the worst part of the housing crisis that began seven years ago is still to come. Fully 70% continue to believe that the U.S. is still in the middle of that crisis.

In its second annual survey entitled “How Housing Matters,” the MacArthur Foundation’s findings show that most Americans recognize that finding quality affordable housing in their communities is challenging: 58% say it is very or somewhat challenging to find an appropriate rental and 59% say it is very or somewhat challenging to find a home to purchase. The survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates.

More than 60% of those surveyed believe that families struggling to keep their housing took a second job (82% said this was very or fairly likely), stopped saving for retirement (73%), accumulated credit card debt (72%), or cut back on health care (62%). Startlingly, perhaps, 52% of all adults surveyed have had to make at least one such change to their lives in the past three years in order to meet rent or mortgage payments.

Among Americans who are paying more than 30% of their household income for housing the numbers are even more stark. Some 62% of these homeowners and 74% of these renters have made one of those changes in the past three years.

In an echo of last year’s survey, some 70% of renters still aspire to own a home someday even though 64% of those surveyed also believe that home ownership today is less likely to be a path to build equity and wealth than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Most people think that the government should have a role in solving the problem of housing affordability, but nearly 60% want the government to invest equally in both renting and owning a place to live.

The president of Hart Research said:

The housing crisis that began more than five years ago has left an indelible mark on the attitudes and experiences of Americans. 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 survey included a sample of 1,355 adults including 243 who have only a cell phone and oversamples of renters and owners who spend more than 30% of their household income on monthly rent or mortgage payments. The interviews were conducted in April and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all adults and higher for subgroups.

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