New research suggests that the United States is still in the thick of a housing crisis as it relates to the accessibility of high-quality affordable housing for both homeowners and renters.
Hart Research Associates conducted the How Housing Matters survey of 1,401 adults between April and May on behalf of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Although survey respondents see some improvement in the national housing situation, many believe the nation is still battling a crisis. Forty-one percent of respondents believe that the United States remains in the middle of a housing crisis compared with 51 percent who held that view a year ago. In addition, a further 20 percent believe that the worst of the housing crisis is still ahead.
Overall, the challenges associated with securing affordable housing is sending ripple effects through the broader economy. One of the key findings of the survey is that a strong majority of respondents (79 percent) are very pessimistic about their ability to gain—and hold onto—middle-class status nowadays, and access to affordable housing plays an important role in those concerns.
“I think we expected to see some pessimism here, but the depth and breadth of this [are] quite profound,” says Rebecca Naser, a senior vice president at Hart Research Associates in Washington, D.C. This belief really spans the spectrum of adults across the country, regardless of age, income levels, or political views, she adds.
Survey results show that Americans are continuing to struggle with the challenges of paying for housing. More than half of respondents (55 percent) said that they have made at least one sacrifice to be able to cover their rent or mortgage payment in the last few years, such as taking a second job, putting contributions to retirement savings accounts on hold, or relying on credit cards. That has changed little in the past year; in fact, it has increased slightly from 52 percent who said they had made sacrifices to cover housing costs in the 2014 survey.
Affordable housing in particular is an issue that has moved to the forefront for many people in the wake of the housing crisis. Sixty percent of respondents said that housing affordability is either a very serious or fairly serious problem in this country. The majority of respondents reported that it is challenging to find affordable housing in their community to either buy or rent. Respondents also believe that minorities as well as the younger generation of millennials find homeownership more difficult to achieve.
“The findings highlight and provide very important insight into how we address the significant and enduring challenges facing a good portion of American households,” says Ianna Kachoris, a program officer at the MacArthur Foundation. The foundation hopes that this survey research will advance the conversation on how best to provide decent, stable, and affordable housing for Americans, she adds.
Views are split on what, if anything, government can do to improve affordability of housing. However, respondents would like to see government make issues related to housing affordability a higher priority. Only 14 percent of respondents believe their elected leaders at any level—federal, state, or local—are treating housing affordability as a high priority.
However, it is not all gloom and doom. The survey does show that the American public is gaining more confidence in some areas. For example, 56 percent of respondents believe that buying a home is an excellent long-term investment, and 70 percent aspire to homeownership. Even in light of the last seven years and the devastating impact on the housing market, the desire to own a home remains consistently high, notes Naser.