A significant majority of Americans continue to believe housing affordability is a problem and that it’s not receiving the attention it deserves, according to a new survey by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The 2016 How Housing Matters Survey, the fourth annual survey of housing attitudes by the MacArthur Foundation, is based on interviews of 1,200 adults by Hart Research Associates between April 28 and May 10. Additional support was provided by the Kresge Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust.
According to the survey, six in 10 respondents characterized housing affordability as a serious problem, with 57% saying it’s an issue in the area where they live. Seven in 10 adults, or 68% of respondents, said they believe it is more challenging to secure housing today than it was for previous generations.
Three in 10 adults responded that they spend more than 30% of their monthly income on rent or mortgage payments, and more than half reported that they have had to make sacrifices over the past three years to pay for housing. Almost a quarter of respondents said they have had to take on an additional job or more hours at work, while 19% have stopped saving for retirement, 17% have accumulated credit card debt, 13% have cut back on healthy food, and 11% have cut back on health care.
While Americans may be pessimistic about the nation’s housing affordability crisis, they are optimistic that there are solutions to the problem.
“The public believes something can be done to solve the problems of housing affordability,” says Rebecca Naser, senior vice president at Hart Research Associates. “Related to that, it’s not just that they think something can be done, three in four believe it’s important for elected officials in Washington, D.C., to take action on this issue.”
Nearly two-third of adults, 63%, said they believe actions can be taken to solve the affordability problems. In addition, a significant majority across the political spectrum believes it is very or fairly important for elected leaders to do so. However, 63% said the issue has not received enough attention from the presidential candidates on the campaign trail. This response included half of Republicans, two-thirds of Independents, and three-quarters of Democrats.
When presented with seven different proposed policies that local, state, or federal governments could take to address housing affordability, support overwhelmingly outweighed the opposition. Majorities favored revising the tax code to help middle-income families purchase homes, expanding housing support for low-income families, letting developers build more units if they included some for families earning less than $50,000, and requiring communities to ensure 20% of housing is affordable to families earning less than $50,000.
“Too many Americans today believe the dream of a decent, stable home, and the prospects for social mobility, are receding,” says 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 affordability challenges.”