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The government should support owning and renting equally

 

WashingtonFor over half a decade, the Federal Reserve has played an active role in the mortgage market, both directly and indirectly influencing mortgage rates lower. But is that the type of housing support Americans are looking for from their government? Furthermore, do the American people want more or less government influence when it comes to housing?

Equal support

Nearly 60 percent of 1,355 U.S. adults who participated in the "How Housing Matters" survey, conducted April 8-14 by Hart Research Associates for the MacArthur Foundation, said they believed government should do more to ensure sufficient supplies of affordable quality housing.

Perhaps most surprisingly, this majority said they wanted the federal government to support both owning and renting equally.

The survey population was deliberately over-weighted with people who said they paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing in order to highlight the views of consumers whose housing situation might be considered "distressed."

In a statement, Hart Research Associates President Geoffrey Garin said this year's survey found that "Americans want a more even-handed approach to housing policy."

Unaffordable housing

More than 70 percent of respondents agreed with a statement that it was challenging for families living at or below the poverty level to find affordable quality housing.

Substantial proportions of respondents also agreed that finding such housing was challenging for families with average incomes (58 percent), young people new to the labor force (75 percent) and families with children who wanted to find housing near good-quality schools (60 percent).

Shifting stance on homeownership

The survey also found attitudes toward homeownership had shifted.

Forty-three percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that owning a home is "an excellent long-term investment and one of the best ways for people to build wealth and assets." Fifty-four percent said they believed buying a home was less appealing than it used to be.

Seventy percent of renters said they aspire to own a home, but 58 percent also said they believed "renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream."

Housing-related sacrifices

More than half of the respondents said they had made at least one sacrifice to pay their rent or mortgage. "Housing affordability has driven a large share of the American people to make significant financial adjustments," Garin said.

Sacrifices included:

  • A second job
  • Deferred retirement savings
  • Less health care or healthy food
  • Higher credit-card debt
  • Moving to a neighborhood that was less safe or had lower-quality schools

Forty-seven percent of all respondents said their own housing situation wasn't stable and secure or hadn't been stable and secure at some time in the past. That figure was 56 percent among current renters in the survey population.

Should housing be a burden?

Julia M. Stasch, vice president of U.S. programs at MacArthur, said the survey provided "insight into the substantial burden of costly and unstable housing."

"It is clear," Stasch said, "that Americans believe more can and should be done to improve housing affordability for renters and owners, and that government should take action to invest in both equally."

The MacArthur Foundation is a public policy organization that supports human rights, global conservation, civic improvement and greater understanding of how technology affects children and society.

About the author:

Marcie GeffnerMarcie Geffner is an award-winning freelance reporter, writer, editor and blogger whose work has been published by MSNBC, CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, Fox Business, Bankrate.com, AOL Real Estate, ThirdAge.com, Fidelity.com, Inman News and dozens of major U.S. newspapers. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from UCLA and MBA from Pepperdine University. You can follow Marcie on Twitter: @marciegeff.

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