From the NY Times:
Owning a house remains central to Americans’ sense of well-being, even as many doubt their home is a good investment after a punishing recession.
Nearly nine in 10 Americans say homeownership is an important part of the American dream, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. And they are keen on making sure it stays that way, for themselves and everyone else.
Support for helping people in financial distress over housing is higher than support for helping those without a job for many months.
Forty-five percent of the respondents say the government should be doing more to improve the housing market, while 16 percent say it should be doing less. On the politically contentious issue of direct financial assistance to those having trouble paying their mortgages, slightly more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the government should help. And almost no one favors discontinuing the mortgage tax deduction, a prized middle-class benefit that has been featured on some budget-cutting proposals.
President Obama, who has been criticized for both doing too much to help the housing market and for not doing enough, was given poor marks. Only 36 percent of those polled approve of what Mr. Obama has done, while 45 percent disapprove.
In assessing blame for the housing crash, people are increasingly seeing financial institutions as the central culprit. Amid the swirl of recent disclosures about banks following improper and illegal procedures in pursuing foreclosures, 42 percent blame lenders, while 29 percent blame regulators. When the question was asked in early 2008, as the crisis was still building, the numbers were reversed, with 40 percent blaming regulators and 28 percent blaming lenders. Only a handful of respondents at either moment blamed the borrowers themselves for taking loans they could not afford.
Making an offer for a house, something often done in past generations with little apprehension, is now riddled with worry. Only 49 percent call it a safe investment, while 45 percent feel it is risky. In a market where prices are consistently dropping, there is no easy exit.
As the housing market slumped over the last few years with a speed and magnitude not seen since the Great Depression, aspects of homeownership have been debated as never before. There are tough questions about the role the government should take. These include how much of a down payment lenders should demand, whether lenders should be restrictive or expansive in granting new loans, how much assistance to give those on the verge of foreclosure, and whether real estate will ever again be the retirement savings vehicle it once was.
While the debate has been loud, there was little evidence of people’s views that went beyond the anecdotal. This poll offers a window onto widespread opinions at a critical juncture.
Before the crash, housing was widely deemed one of the safest possible investments. Few experts thought there was the possibility of a nationwide downturn. But after it happened, the effects were widespread and painful.