American Dream is Alive and Well; NAHB Wants Politicians to Keep it that Way

January 13th, 2012 by DWM Magazine

Americans want to own a home. That was the key finding of a survey conducted earlier this month on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) by the Republican and Democratic polling firms of Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Va., and Lake Research Partners in Washington, D.C.

And as Jerry Howard, CEO of the NAHB noted during a recent webinar, the survey “I think the results will not only astound you, but also motivate you.”

Neil Newhouse, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, provided an overview of the poll results and said there are three basic findings. First, he said Americans are optimistic and hopeful.

“Even though [we’ve] been through [a] housing crisis the goal of owning a home is still very much a part of the American dream,” he said.

Second, he noted that “homeownership for these voters is more than bricks and mortar and mortgage.” He said it in fact represents a place to raise a family, a sense of community, etc.

And third, speaking of policy proposals, he said the bottom line is there is broad support for government policy that encourages homeownership and very little support for policies to eliminate mortgage interest deduction.

He also shared some of the survey findings. For instance, 78 percent of those polled say owning a home is very important or one of the most important things in their lives. On par, Newhouse said, with being a success at their job or able to pay for an education.

When asked about the best investments one can make, he said owning a home comes in within margin of error of having a retirement plan, etc.

“Even after four years of a housing crisis, Americans still believe owning a home is the single best investment,” said Newhouse.

Likewise, he said among renters 65 percent agree homeownership is the best long-term investment and worth the risks of the ups and downs of the housing market.

And even among those who are “under water with their home,” Newhouse said results showed that 96 percent of Americans are happy with their decisions to own a home.

“And more than 2/3 of those who do not currently own a home say it is their goal to be a homeowner one day,” he added.

Newhouse also said that most surveyed agree that dealing with the mortgage/foreclosure situation is key to dealing with the housing crisis, as almost 6 in 10 voters say stabilizing and restoring the nation’s housing market is high priority.

Celinda Lake, president, Lake Research Partners, also discussed survey results.

She said it was an exciting poll because in thinking of a home “it has fundamental orientation in our values … [and is] key to improving the economy …”

Some points she made were:

• There is broad support for government policies that encourage home ownership;

• Most voters oppose a reduction or elimination of federal support for making sure home loans remain readily available and affordable; and

• The majority of voters oppose a series of proposals that would affect home mortgage interest deductions.

“The tax proposals people really support are the ones that encourage home ownership,” she said, explaining that the survey found that all political parties agree that tax incentives to promote home ownership are appropriate and reasonable.

Likewise, the survey found “there is solid opposition to the reduction or elimination of federal support that ensures home loans remain readily available and affordable if it means it would raise interest rates.” In addition, most voters are also opposed to a series of proposals that would affect the mortgage interest deduction or home purchasing requirements.

Lake added that the “majority [of voters] across party lines say they would be less likely to vote for a congressional candidate who proposed to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction.”

Another finding, Lake shared, is that 52 percent of voters oppose lowering income tax rates if it would mean reducing or eliminating tax deductions.

“The bottom line,” she said, “is that owning a home is still an anchor for achieving the American dream …” She said voters place great importance on home ownership and value the government’s role to encourage it, though there is “little appetite for change to policies related to mortgage interest deductions.”

The survey of 1,500 likely voters includes data from key political swing areas. The survey, which has a margin of error of ±2.5 percent, is a follow-up to a similar national poll conducted last May.

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