There are few greater measures of security than having a safe home in a safe neighborhood, so it’s no surprise the Federal Reserve Bank devoted a chunk of the 2017-2018 Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households to the topic.
To review, the Consumer and Community Development Research Section of the Fed’s Division of Consumer and Community Affairs (DCCA) has conducted this survey annually since 2013. The study gauges household feelings of financial well-being based on common measures of economic security, including retirement savings, student loan debt, employment and income.
Having addressed perceptions of economic well-being by racial and ethnic groups, income stability and the effect of the opioid crisis, we now turn our focus to housing.
HOUSING: OWN VS. RENT
Owning one’s own home has long been the gold standard for living The American Dream, and the Fed study proves the 66 percent of those surveyed who own their houses are typically more satisfied with housing than those who rent. Not surprisingly, home ownership is tied to both income and age, with those at the upper end of both metrics owning property in greater numbers than those at the lower end.
A variety of conditions cause instability among renters, most notably:
- High rent – for seven of 10 low-income consumers, rent accounts for more than 30 percent of their monthly income.
- Difficulty in getting landlords to respond to problems, make repairs, etc.
- The on-going concern with the possibility of eviction.
Almost half of all tenants requested at least one repair in the year prior to the study and about a quarter of the same group reported difficulty in getting the repair made. Around 39 percent of renters reported having moderate to substantial problems with the repair.
As in other aspects of the Fed report, there are gaps in how different ethnic groups are affected. Black and Hispanic tenants report more problems with landlords than do whites, as the following table shows. More than half of white renters report no difficulty with landlords. By contrast, 57 percent of Hispanic renters and 65 percent of black renters, respectively, reported having problem getting repairs made.
Eviction is less common generally, but more so in urban than rural or suburban areas, with nine percent of all urban renters facing eviction as opposed to six percent or rural renters.
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS: EMPTY NEST VS. FULL HOUSE
Of those surveyed, 16 percent lived alone, more than half lived with a nuclear family (spouse or partner or children under the age of 18), and a third lived in non-traditional arrangements. The latter included the 12 percent of adult children living with parents, 10 percent with extended family members and only five percent with roommates.
Among adults ages 25-29, more than a quarter are living with their parents, with Hispanics – 45 percent – being more likely to do so than blacks (27 percent) or whites (21 percent) in the same age bracket. Finances play a large part; most young adults say they live at home to save money although two-fifths of the group report that they do help their parents financially.
While three-fourths of respondents reported being satisfied with their neighborhoods, differences emerge with income disparities. Around 60 percent of residents in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods express satisfaction as compared with 81 percent of those in middle-to-upper-income communities.
Similarly, the disparity in satisfaction is notable in differing ethnic groups, likely owing to income differences in neighborhoods. While 80 percent of whites say they are pleased with the quality and safety of their neighborhoods, the figure drops to 64-66 percent among blacks and Hispanics.
Notable among all sections of the study are the disparities in perceptions of well-being through different ethnic groups.