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Hager: Home ownership still polls high

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Hager: Home ownership still polls high

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June is homeownership month. In the past it was a time to draw attention to the upside of home ownership. Less than a decade ago, you’d find neighborhood groups, elected officials, lenders and realtors celebrating programs and organizations to help renters become homeowners through flexible and affordable lending products and counseling services. 

Not surprisingly, this celebration has been more subdued for the past several years. Many now wonder if the nation will ever see the historically high homeownership rate of 69.2 percent reached in last quarter of 2004. Others question the public and fiscal policies that encouraged families to purchase homes. Some believe the historical link between homeownership and the American Dream is damaged, if not severed entirely.

No doubt, this is a time for introspection about homeownership. As part of our ongoing Merrill/Morrison Institute Poll, we asked a representative sample of Arizonans their opinions about homeownership. A few of the more interesting results:

  • Homeownership continues to be a goal for Arizonans. A whopping 89 percent of Arizonans say homeownership is “extremely important” or “important” in achieving the American dream. For those under 35 years old, 97 percent believe it is “extremely important” or “important.” In a state so severely affected by foreclosures, it is fascinating that younger Arizonans continue to hold it in high regard and view it as a sign of success.
  • The housing crisis has not dampened how we feel about home ownership. When asked how the “housing crisis has affected their feelings toward homeownership,” 28 percent say “owning a home has become more important.” The housing crisis has further steeled those under 35, with one in three of these young adults saying that owning a home has become “more important” to them.  Latino respondents were likewise fortified by the housing crisis, with 48 percent saying that owning a home has become even more important to them. For over half of Arizonans, the housing crisis has not affected how they feel about homeownership at all.
  • Arizonans still want a tax break for homeownership. The mortgage interest tax deduction, the tax-saving backbone for many middle-class families, is a federal policy that lends a hand to homeowners. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates $98.5 billion in revenue will be lost to this deduction in 2013. At the same time, some point out that eliminating this deduction could help address our growing federal debt. When asked if they were willing to forego the mortgage interest deduction if it went toward paying down the national debt, only 15 percent said they would support such a proposal.

In spite of some tough financial years, Arizonans still aspire to homeownership, even if it means accruing a growing federal deficit. The American Dream, or at least the promise of it, appears to be intact.

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a leader in examining critical Arizona and regional issues, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research and communication outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

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