Americans understand the importance of housing stability to communities and increasingly support rental housing and more balanced housing policies, according to a new survey commissioned by the John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The How Housing Matters Survey was conducted by Hart Research Associates to examine how Americans view housing in the aftermath of the housing crisis and how housing matters to their communities. On Wednesday, April 3, staff from MacArthur’s Housing Matters program and Hart Research hosted a webinar to discuss the survey findings.
According to the survey, while 72% of renters still aspire to be homeowners, renting has become more appealing. Nearly half of current owners (45%) can see themselves renting at some point in the future and 61% of all respondents believe that “renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream.” The survey also found that that the public has a strong sense of how vital stable housing is in people’s lives and communities. Seven in ten believe that “ensuring that more people have decent, stable housing that they can afford” has a major impact on safety and the economic well-being of communities, children’s ability to do well in school, and families’ financial security.
While most surveyed feel stable and secure in their current housing situation, nearly half of all respondents (45%) have experienced a time in their lives when their “housing situation was not stable and secure.” According to Hart Research Associates’ Rebecca Nasser, these results show that housing instability is not reserved for just a narrow population, and nearly half of those surveyed personally know the anxieties associated with housing insecurity.
More than three out of four survey respondents (77%) believe the country is either in the midst of a housing crisis or that the worst is yet to come, a sentiment felt slightly more by renters and low income respondents. In order to further address the housing crisis, two-thirds of adults surveyed believe the national housing policy focus should be split more fairly between homeownership and renting. Respondents were provided information about current housing policy and demographic and lifestyle changes in the past few decades and in response, 69% of Democrats, 65% of Independents and 62% of Republicans believe the “focus of our housing policy should be fairly equally split on rental housing and housing for people to own.” These results were similar among all races, ages, and income levels. No specific policies were suggested, but according to Nasser, anecdotal evidence suggests homeowners know little about the particulars of the mortgage interest deduction.
The nationwide telephone survey of 1,433 adults (including 240 with only a mobile phone) was conducted between February 27 and March 10, 2013. Survey questions were informed by 10 focus groups, seven of which represented various segments of the general ppoulation and three conducted with public policy experts and social service practitioners.