Pessimism About Prolonged Housing Affordability Crisis is on the Rise, 2016 How Housing Matters Survey Finds

Most Adults Have Made Sacrifices to Pay Rent or Mortgage; Large
Majorities Want Elected Officials and Candidates to Address Housing
Affordability

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Americans are losing faith that the housing crisis that began nearly a
decade ago is over. A significant majority (81%) continues to believe
that housing affordability is a problem in America today, according to a
new survey of housing attitudes released today by the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

While stable, affordable housing is viewed as a fundamental component of
economic security for American families, nearly seven in ten adults
(68%) believe that it is more challenging to secure such housing today
than it was for previous generations. Still, more than three in five
adults (63%) believe a great deal or fair amount can be done to address
problems of housing affordability, and the same proportion (63%)
believes this issue has not yet received enough attention from
presidential candidates.

“Too many Americans today believe the dream of a decent, stable home,
and the prospects for social mobility, are receding,” said MacArthur
President Julia Stasch. “Having a decent, stable, affordable home is
about more than shelter: It is at the core of strong, vibrant, and
healthy families and communities. This survey demonstrates that the
public wants action to address the nation’s real and pervasive housing
affordability challenges.”

The 2016 How Housing Matters Survey is the fourth annual national survey
of housing attitudes commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation, this year
with additional support from the Kresge Foundation and the Melville
Charitable Trust. Hart Research Associates interviewed 1,200 adults, via
landlines and cell phones, between April 28 and May 10. An additional
oversample of 603 respondents in the City of Chicago and its suburbs was
undertaken, and its findings
were also released today.

National survey findings include:

In a reversal of previously growing optimism that “the housing crisis
is pretty much over,” only 29% of adults now believe this is the case,
down six percentage points from last year.
Nearly two-thirds of
those surveyed believe we are still in the middle of the housing crisis
(44%) or the worst is yet to come (19%). The proportion of Americans who
believe the crisis is over had been steadily increasing, from 20% in
2013 to 25% in 2014 to 35% in 2015, before trending down this year.
While this decline in optimism about the end of the housing crisis
prevails across most segments of the public, it is especially pronounced
among renters (-12-point difference from 2015), those 65 and older
(-12), those with a four-year college or more education (-10), African
Americans (-10), Hispanics (-13), city dwellers (-13), and those living
in the Northeast (-10).

A significant majority (81%) continues to believe that housing
affordability is a problem in America today
, with six in ten
characterizing it as a serious problem.
A majority of adults (57%)
say that housing affordability is a problem in the area in which they
live, with two in five (39%) calling it a serious problem.

Stable, affordable housing is viewed as a fundamental component of
economic security for families, yet Americans find that it is
increasingly unattainable.
When asked what things are very important
in achieving a secure, middle-class lifestyle, stable, affordable
housing (85%) falls just behind a good job (90%) and in line with saving
for retirement (85%) and having health insurance (83%). Yet seven in ten
adults (68%) believe it is more challenging to secure such housing today
than it was for previous generations – a belief held across all
educational, income, regional, and demographic cohorts.

Americans are optimistic that the problem of housing affordability is
solvable and are solidly behind a variety of policy proposals to address
these challenges. They do not believe, however, that the problem is
receiving the attention it needs or deserves.
Nearly two-thirds of
adults (63%) believe actions can be taken to solve problems of housing
affordability, and a significant majority (76%) believes it is very
(60%) or fairly important (16%) for their elected leaders in Washington
to do so. The view that affordable housing should be a priority among
policymakers is strong across the political spectrum – from most
Democrats (88% say it is very/fairly important for leaders to act) to
three-fourths of Independents (75%) to a solid majority of Republicans
(62%). Homeowners (71%) and renters (86%) also agree. Yet 63% of adults
say this issue has not received enough attention from the 2016
presidential candidates, including half of Republicans (49%), two-thirds
of Independents (66%), and three-quarters of Democrats (74%).

As key indicators of how difficult it is to acquire and maintain
stable, affordable housing today, one-third of adults (34%) report that
they know someone who has or have themselves been evicted, foreclosed
upon, or lost their housing in the past five years. Three in ten adults
(31%) spend more than 30% of their monthly household income on their
rent or mortgage payment.
Again this year, over half of the public
(53%) report that they have made sacrifices over the past three years to
be able to cover their rent or mortgage. These sacrifices have included
taking on an additional job/more hours at work (24%), ceasing to save
for retirement (19%), Accumulating credit card debt (17%), or cutting
back on healthy food (13%) or healthcare (11%). While half of college
graduates report having had to make such sacrifices, proportions of
those who have had to do so are higher for people with high school
diplomas or less education (57%), some college (60%), those with incomes
under $40,000 (66%) or even $40,000 to $75,000 (58%). African Americans
(63%) and Hispanics (72%) are struggling, as are renters (71%), city
dwellers (60%), and those paying more than 30% of their income to cover
housing costs (76%).

The survey finds that 16% of adults feel only somewhat stable and
secure or unstable and insecure in their current housing situation –
this represents more than 37 million Americans.
Groups experiencing
this housing vulnerability at especially high rates include 33% of
renters, 42% of distressed renters (those who spend more than 30% of
their income on rent), 30% of adults with income less than $40,000, 23%
of adults with a high school degree or less education, 34% of African
Americans, 24% of Hispanics, and 23% of city dwellers.

A wide swath of respondents support a variety of proposed policies
that local, state, or the federal government could take to address
housing affordability, a reality that underscores the importance the
public places on political leaders fixing this lingering, serious
problem.
Strong majorities favor revising the tax code to help those
earning between $40k and $70k to buy homes (total support 81%);
expanding housing support for low-income families with children (80%);
letting developers build more units if they include some targeted to
families earning less than $50,000 (79%); requiring communities to
ensure 20% of housing is affordable to families earning less than
$50,000 (74%); ensuring programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit
provide income assistance to cover housing costs (74%); expanding rental
housing assistance (73%); or giving renters a federal tax break similar
to the mortgage interest deduction (70%). Support outweighs opposition
for all of these proposals across the political spectrum, among
Democrats, Independents, and Republicans.

The pendulum continues to swing back toward the belief that owning a
home is an excellent long-term investment, with 60% of adults believing
so, up 10% since 2014.
As recently as 2013, a majority of the public
(57%) said that buying a home was becoming less appealing.

“This year’s How Housing Matters survey reveals a surprising reversal of
the trend in which Americans have been feeling more optimistic about the
housing recovery, and concerns about housing affordability have remained
remarkably durable. It is understandable why so many Americans are still
skeptical about the housing recovery. Stable, affordable housing equates
to feelings of security and having achieved a middle-class lifestyle,
yet as Americans continue to make sacrifices to keep their homes.
Americans want their elected officials to focus more on the challenge of
affordable housing, and they think the issue has not so far received the
attention it deserves from the candidates,” said Geoffrey Garin,
President of Hart Research Associates.

Link to full results: www.macfound.org/hhm2016

About the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective
institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant,
and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly
significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing
social challenges, including over-incarceration, global climate change,
nuclear risk, and significantly increasing financial capital for the
social sector. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program, the
Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism
in a responsible and responsive democracy; the strength and vitality of
our headquarters city, Chicago; and generating new knowledge about
critical issues. More information is at www.macfound.org/housing.

Contacts

Hart Research
Audrey Chang, 202-295-8779
Audrey.chang@harbourgrp.com
or
MacArthur
Foundation
Sean Harder, 312-917-0205
sharder@macfound.org