Half of Americans recently made cuts elsewhere to pay for their housing, survey finds

More than half of U.S. adults have had to cut back elsewhere to cover their rent or mortgage, according to a new survey.

The John D. And Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation found that 52 percent of adults had made trade-offs. Of those:

  • 21 percent took a second job or worked more hours
  • 19 percent stopped saving for retirement
  • 16 percent accumulated credit card debt
  • 14 percent cut back of health care
  • 12 percent cut back on healthy food
  • 6 percent moved to a neighborhood they considered less safe
  • 3 percent moved to a neighborhood schools are not as good.

Renters were more likely to make such sacrifices than homeowners. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to have made such sacrifices than whites. And homeowners and renters spending more than 30 percent of their income — a widely held standard of affordability — on housing were more likely to make those sacrifices than those who were spending a smaller share.

 

The findings point to a lack of affordable, stable housing, the foundation said. Of those surveyed, 58 percent said the government should do more to ensure a sufficient supply of affordable housing. The survey comes as the federal government is weighing the future of its role in mortgage financing.

“The continuing stresses felt by the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the housing recession are real and profound,” said MacArthur foundation vice president Julia Stasch in a statement. “It is clear that Americans believe more can and should be done to improve housing affordability for renters and owners, and that government should take action to invest in both equally.”

Additionally, about 7 in 10 of those surveyed said they believed we’re still in the midst of the housing crisis, with 19 percent saying the worst is yet to come. Only 1 in 4 say the crisis is “pretty much over.”

“For most Americans, the housing crisis is hardly a thing of the past,” said Geoffrey Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the survey. “There is a lot of reporting about the notion that America is in a housing-led recovery. That’s certainly not how Americans see things.”

Although home sales have rebounded from the housing crash and home prices are rising, the market remains far from healthy. Many homeowners have little equity in their home and couldn’t sell at a profit. Others haven’t seen their property’s value return to the amount they paid originally.

That’s created a competitive market, pushing prices higher but constraining sales. The rising prices also haven’t triggered much new construction.

Rents, meanwhile, are also rising. Apartment construction is booming, but it’s only beginning to make up for the lack of new construction during the recession.

As a result, nearly 60 percent of Americans believe it’s challenging to find affordable, quality housing to rent or buy in their communities.

Hart surveyed 1,355 adults by phone, including land lines and cellphones, during one week in April. It oversampled homeowners and renters who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, but top-line results were based on a representative cross-section, Garin said.

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