The appeal of renting versus owning a home is changing across the country, according to a new study commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation.

On the heels of the housing crisis, 54 percent of survey respondents say renting a home has become more appealing. By nearly the same percentage, 57 percent, respondents believe that buying has become less appealing.

Even though there are positive signs that the housing market has rebounded, the public clearly remains nervous. In fact, 77 percent believe the nation is still in the midst of the housing crisis or the worst is still to come. 

The study by Hart Research Associates examines how American attitudes have been transformed by the housing market collapse and changing lifestyles.

Even as attitudes shift, more than seven out of 10 people still aspire to own their own home.

In the past, homeownership and renting were seen more as a zero-sum game, says Rebecca Naser, senior vice president at Hart Research.

"It's a new way of looking at housing in general," she says. "You can still aspire to own a home but still see renting in your future."

In another finding, the study reveals that the public favors a balanced housing policy. Sixty-five percent believe that housing policy should be equally split on ensuring people have access to rental housing and houses to own.

"It is stunning to see how Americans are beginning to favor a new balance that serves both the homeownership and rental markets," says Peter Hart, chairman emeritus of Hart Research. "The emergence of this more balanced view that government support for rental housing and homeownership should be equalized is both surprising and significant. The How Housing Matters survey underscores that it's no longer renters versus owners, the haves versus the have-nots, or the young versus the old. There is a new and real acceptance of a more balanced approach to housing policy that puts renting and owning on a more equal footing."

Other findings of the survey include:

  • 45 percent of respondents have experienced a time when their housing situation was insecure or unstable;
  • 45 percent of current owners can see themselves renting at some point in the future; and
  • Roughly seven in 10 believe that government policies "ensuring that more people have decent, stable housing that they can afford" leads to a major positive impact on the safety and economic well-being of neighborhoods, children's ability to do well in school, and family financial security.

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