Nearly six years after the onset of the Great Recession, housing costs continue to be a struggle for many Americans, with just over half saying they've had to make at least one sacrifice in the past three years to pay their mortgage or rent.

And while economists and other experts say the housing crisis is past us, 70 percent of the public says they believe we're still in the midst of the crisis, with some saying the bottom has yet to be reached. That's according to a recent MacArthur Foundation survey of housing attitudes.

The survey found that 52 percent of Americans said they had to take some sort of unwanted step, such as taking an additional job, putting off retirement savings, reducing spending on health care, accumulating credit card debt or moving to a less desirable neighborhood, in order to cover their housing costs.

Most favor more action on housing

Six out of ten respondents said they think the government should be doing more to ensure access to affordable quality housing, though they did not distinguish between home rentals or purchases, with most favoring equal efforts to support both.

"The continuing stresses felt by the vast majority of Americans in the aftermath of the housing recession are real and profound," said Julia Stasch, MacArthur's vice president of U.S. Programs. "This survey provides insight into the substantial burden of costly and unstable housing, particularly for low and middle-income families."

She said the survey shows that Americans believe that more can and should do more to boost housing affordability for renters and owners. Six out of ten survey respondents said they think the government should take a more active role in this regard, with a majority favoring a balanced approach to both housing types.

Among a group identified as "distressed" homeowners, those spending more than 30 percent of their monthly income on housing, 27 percent said they had stopped saving for retirement during the last three years. Twenty-three percent said they had cut back on health care, and an identical number said they were running up credit card debt.

Fully half said the nation is still experiencing a housing crisis, while another one in five said they believe the crisis will worsen before it improves. Only one in four think the crisis has largely passed.

Called the How Housing Matters survey, it was the second in what is planned as an annual series of surveys for the MacArthur Foundation to assess American attitudes on housing. Results were based on landline and cellular telephone interviews of 1,355 adults.

Published on June 12, 2014