Poll: American Dream of homeownership over, renting 'more appealing'

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Economy,Housing

The decade-long housing crisis has taken a huge toll on the American Dream of homeownership, with a majority of 51 percent now feeling that renting is “more appealing,” and a shocking 43 percent believing that owning a home isn't the path to wealth and security.

In a new poll, the MacArthur Foundation found that the country's interpretation of the dream has shifted so dramatically that now 58 percent of the nation believes those living in rental housing “can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.”

The major reason for the shifting attitude, said MacArthur: Personal economics continue to be so distressing that most Americans have had to make sacrifices to keep their housing, including taking a second job, boosting credit card debt, ending savings and curbing health care.

“For most Americans, the housing crisis is certainly not a thing of the past,” said pollster Geoffrey Garin, president of of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the comprehensive April survey of 1,355 adults. “Some think that the worst is yet to come,” he added in a webinar to release the polling data.

The MacArthur “How Housing Matters Survey” found wide support for new government policies aimed at helping people buy homes and find affordable rental housing.

“Concerns about the lack of affordable quality housing in their community are one reason why six in 10 believe government should be doing more to ensure there is both sufficient affordable quality rental housing, and housing to buy,” said MacArthur, a group dedicated to building “a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.”

What the poll showed is that most Americans, even those not financially distressed, understand and sympathize with the difficulties others are going through. For example, 88 percent said they don’t think a family of four living on $24,000 can find affordable housing.

And while a solid majority would like to own a house, the value of that purchase is highly doubted. For example, when asked if it is more appealing to rent or buy a home, 51 percent chose renting while 31 percent said buying. And 54 percent said buying was “less appealing.”

That’s because the nation just doesn’t see homes as the great investment they once were. While house values are starting to creep up, just 50 percent called owning “an excellent long-term investment because it is likely to increase in value over time and it is one of the best ways for people to build wealth and assets.” Some 43 percent said, “that is no longer the case today.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.