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Survey: Home ownership no longer central to the American dream

April 03, 2013|By E. Scott Reckard
  • California is the second-most expensive state for rental housing, a new report says. Above, apartments are available in 2012 in Berkeley.
California is the second-most expensive state for rental housing, a new… (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

Data may show that the housing markets are in recovery, but a lot of people are still asking: “Who really needs to buy a home anyway?”

The housing bust has created great skepticism about the traditional equation of homeownership with the American dream, a survey commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation has found.

The "How Housing Matters Survey," released Wednesday, found that more than three quarters of Americans believe we’re still in the middle of the housing crisis or that the worst is yet to come. 

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When it comes to remedies, two-thirds believe the nation’s policy should be to encourage rentals equally as much as home purchases.

More than 7 in 10 renters aspire to own a home someday, according to the telephone survey of 1,433 adults, conducted from Feb. 27 to March 10.  

But it also turned up a solid majority who believe renters can be just as successful as owners in achieving the American dream.

“Many of the positive attributes that have long been associated with homeownership are fading,” said Peter D. Hart of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey for the MacArthur Foundation.

 “And on the flip side of the coin, it is remarkable that nearly half of all homeowners can picture themselves one day becoming a renter.”

The sentiment was echoed by John C. Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. In an interview Tuesday with Los Angeles Times staffers, Williams noted that the housing crash and recession had undermined the traditional California belief that home prices and the net worth of owners moved in only one direction: up.

“Then the escalator broke,” he said.

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