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Study: Americans worry about affordable housing

By Mike Wheatley | June 11, 2015

Though the majority of Americans believe local, state, and federal governments are taking the issue of housing affordability seriously, they still remain pessimistic about the future, according to a survey conducted by the MacArthur Foundation.


The annual How Housing Matters survey, conducted in April and May and reflecting the opinions of 1,401 adults nationwide, found that while there have been some improvements on perceptions of housing, 61 percent think the housing crisis isn't over. One in five believes the worst is still ahead.

The MacArthur Foundation also looked at economic mobility, elements of the middle-class lifestyle, Millennials in the housing market, and how governments provide policies related to affordable housing. Here are some of the survey’s overall findings:

Americans' perception of the value of home ownership has slightly improved from last year, and they continue to show a strong desire to own a home:

Fifty-six percent of Americans believe buying a home is an excellent long-term investment and one of the best ways to build wealth and assets, up from 50 percent last year. Seventy percent say buying a home is somewhere between a low and high priority, with 43 percent reporting high priority. Among those who reported a high priority, 53 percent are Millennials.

Americans are pessimistic about economic mobility, especially Millennials desiring a middle-class lifestyle:

Seventy-nine percent of respondents believe middle-class households fall into a lower economic class more often than low-income households rise to the middle class. Respondents say the top three most important factors of the middle-class lifestyle are a stable, decent-paying job (56 percent), affordable housing and owning a home (31 percent), and education beyond high school (30 percent).

Among Millennials, the biggest roadblocks to achieving the middle-class lifestyle are saving for retirement, owning a home, decent wages, and finding affordable housing.

Affordable housing is a serious problem, especially among Millennials and minorities:

Thirty-six percent of Americans believe housing affordability is a very serious problem, and 24 percent believe it is a fairly serious problem, according to the survey. People ages 50 to 64 are the most pessimistic, with 69 percent believing it is a very or fairly serious problem.
Seventy-two percent think Millennials who are left behind in terms of home ownership is a very, fairly, or moderately large problem. Sixty-one percent think the same about African-Americans and Hispanics.

Fifty-five percent of respondents have made at least one trade-off to afford housing compared to 45 percent who have made none.

  • Twenty-one percent have taken a second job and worked more hours.
  • Seventeen percent stopped saving for retirement.
  • Fourteen percent accumulated credit card debt.

Americans want government officials to make housing a priority but see them as falling short on creating change:

Seventy-five percent believe the federal government should make housing affordability at least a moderately high priority, but only 43 percent think it does. Seventy-nine percent believe local and state governments should make housing affordability at least a moderately high priority, yet 54 percent think they actually do.

On the other hand, 53 percent of respondents say solutions to housing affordability problems aren't really the responsibility of the government. Forty-six percent of Millennials, though, say the federal government should be involved.

Many Americans have conflicting views of how the federal government should act due to three issues:

  • They don't have a clear idea of what exactly the government could do to improve housing.
  • They have a lack of confidence that the government could make housing affordability policies that positively affect people.
  • They prefer private or local government over the federal government when it comes to addressing affordable housing problems.
Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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