Housing anxieties are rising for many Americans

Although the Great Recession ended seven years ago in the U.S., for many Americans the downturn continues.

The percentage of people who think the country has moved past the housing crisis is declining, according to a survey from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A year ago, the foundation found nearly 36 percent of respondents said the worst of the crash is "pretty much over," but that has fallen by six percentage points in the latest survey.

The results are a reversal from polls the foundation did between 2013 and 2015 that showed increasing numbers of respondents believed the housing market was improving.

In addition, 81 percent of respondents consider housing affordability to be a problem, one that most believe has gotten worse in recent years. Interestingly, 63 percent of those polled said a "great deal" or a "fair amount" can be done to address the issue, and more than 60 percent didn't think the problem was getting enough attention from the presidential candidates.

"Too many Americans today believe the dream of a decent, stable home, and the prospects for social mobility, are receding," said MacArthur President Julia Stasch in a statement. "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 housing affordability challenges."

The foundation's How Housing Matters Survey was based on interviews with 1,200 adults over landlines and cell phones conducted between April 28 and May 10. Its results underscore the growing unease many Americans feel about the economy.

Indeed, housing prices have been on the rise, though they haven't reached the levels of the real estate bubble a decade ago. The closely watched S&P/Case-Schiller Index of 20 real estate markets has registered nine straight month-over-month price gains as supplies of homes tightens. Other economic red flags are also worrying.

For instance, employers created only 38,000 jobs in May, the slowest pace in nearly six years. To make matters worse, government economists also revised the job market figures for March and April downward, another sign of weakness.

Although the May unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, that was the result of more workers leaving the workforce after getting discouraged. The weakening job market was one reason the Federal Reserve this week decided to hold off on raising interest rates. It also slashed its 2016 forecast for U.S. GDP growth to 2 percent from 2.2 percent.

Despite the MacArthur Foundation survey results that presidential candidates could be focusing more on housing affordability, the related issue of income inequality has become a flashpoint of the 2016 campaign. Democrat Bernie Sanders has proposed the largest tax increase since World War II to address the issue, while he also has noted that Americans will save more in the long run from his policies such as universal health care.

The presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican challenger Donald Trump have also vowed to address the economic problems of the middle class.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.