American Attitudes Transformed by Housing Crisis
American Attitudes Transformed by Housing Crisis
A survey reveals renting and owning are seen as equal home living options. Image: Waterstone Media Center, Burbank, CA

Who says renters don’t have a stake in the American Dream?

While the idea of home ownership still sparks the imaginations of Americans, owning a home is perhaps not quite the ideal it once was, according to a recent study sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation.

Hart Research Associates conducted a telephone study of nearly 1,500 American adults in February and March 2013, inquiring about many aspects of home living. Their findings suggest a subtle but significant shift in the way the American home is perceived.

Renting and owning seen as equal
The housing challenges which factored into the recent recession still loom large in the minds of those surveyed, with three out of four believing the effects of the downturn still have not fully played out in the housing marketplace.

A very interesting finding unearthed by this research, however, claims that specific perceptions comparing home ownership and renting have leveled out. As noted in the report, “fifty-seven percent (57%) of adults believe that ‘buying has become less appealing,’ and by nearly the same proportion (54%), a majority believes that ‘renting has become more appealing’ than it was before.” Nevertheless, seven out of ten responders who rent still report looking forward to owning someday.

The notion that people must own their own homes, while still appealing in the abstract, no longer seems to influence the actual housing choices which respondents are making, nor are they feeling dissatisfied with these choices. Forty-five percent of responders who currently own, in fact, envision that they may rent at some point in their future.

It would appear that, among those surveyed, options have expanded which include renting as a viable, even positive home living choice.

Why the shift?
If these findings are applicable to the American public at large, they suggest an important change in perception. Why would this change have come about, and why now?

Considering the timing of the economic recession, there is likely a tie to how that event has affected home ownership. Owners who lost homes due to foreclosure perhaps are less likely to get a sense of security and satisfaction from the prospect of owning. And in many places around the country, modern-day lifestyle choices see residents moving back to urban centers — places where renting, for instance, is an affordable option.

How we live today
In spite of cautious attitudes, a notable 80 percent of survey respondents feel their own personal housing situation is positive and stable. Housing events of late may have shaken faith, but resilience brings hope. The three in five survey respondents who feel that “renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream” are rewriting what has typically been considered a key tenet of what it means to be American.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / karen roach

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About The Author

Steve Harper enjoys seeking out and writing about topics that matter to renters for the Apartment Guide Blog. He hails from Atlanta, Georgia. Find Steve on Google.

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