American Dream of ... Renting? Survey Finds Shifting Attitudes Toward Homeownership

The American dream of homeownership for many could be turning into the American dream of renting. Despite a battered housing market that is bouncing back nicely, coupled with historically low interest rates and affordable home prices, a large swath of Americans are beginning to look at renting as an equal or better long-term option than owning, according to a new survey on housing attitudes.

The MacArthur Foundation found that even though a majority of Americans still aspire to own their own home one day, they're shifting their ideas of what it means to achieve the American dream. Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents said they believe "buying has become less appealing," while 54 percent said that "renting has become more appealing" since the housing crash.

"The public is recognizing that owning is not the only acceptable option, and the sense that renting is somehow undesirable appears to be fading," the MacArthur Foundation said in its announcement of its survey results. That shows in the 45 percent of current homeowner respondents who said they could see themselves renting at some point in the future, and the 61 percent of overall respondents who said they believe that "renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American Dream."

The survey questioned 1,433 adults between Feb. 27 and March 10 and is part of the MacArthur Foundation's "How Housing Matters" initiative, which pays for research looking at "if and how housing leads to improved outcomes in child well-being, physical and mental health, education and economic opportunity," according to The New York Times.

These findings might seem startling in the face of a housing recovery that's steaming full-speed ahead. Home prices have been posting the best year-over-year gains since 2006, sales have been healthy and confidence has been returning to the housing market. But the major driver of the recovery has been investors who often snap up distressed properties at discounts and rent them out. Still largely missing from home buying activity are first-time buyers and everyday homeowners trading up. The MacArthur survey perhaps sheds light on the psyche of those everyday buyers, who are still staying on the sidelines.

The survey also found a high degree of skepticism around the housing recovery. Seventy-seven percent of respondents weren't ready to jump on board with the notion that the housing crash is over, saying they believe the country is still in the middle of a crisis or that the worst is yet to come. And 65 percent said they think national housing policy should be evenly focused on renting and owning, instead of promoting one over the other.

See more:
Most Young Consumers Want to Buy a Home, Survey Finds
Another Housing Bubble? Recovery Shows Dangerous Signs, Reports Say
People Are Becoming More and More Confident in Housing Market

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