There are those who say homeownership should not just be a dream deferred, it should be a nightmare to avoid. Nonetheless, many Americans still see it as a part of the American Dream that they still want to live out, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders.
To be sure the poll’s results could be used to make a political argument that the public – both renters and homeowners – want to keep the tax incentives that promote homeownership. (A tax break, I should add, that builders love.) Two thousand likely 2012 voters were surveyed between May 3 and May 9 to assess their attitudes and feelings about housing, the mortgage interest deduction and the value of homeownership.
"Despite the current housing downturn, Americans still see homeownership as a core value and a key building block of being in the middle class and creating strong jobs in their communities," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, which conducted the survey along with Public Opinion Strategies.
The survey also found that nearly three out of four respondents think the federal government should provide tax incentives to promote homeownership. An overwhelming majority of respondents oppose eliminating the mortgage interest tax deduction.
“If Congress abandons policies to support the goal of homeownership and to keep housing affordable, lawmakers could be in for a rude awakening in the 2012 elections," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.
Here’s this week’s Color of Money Question: Do you think the government should have policies that make homeownership accessible to more people, including the homeowner’s tax break? Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “A Dream Not Deferred” in the subject line.Be sure to include your full name, city and state.
Rent-to-own Three Times Over
A Consumer Reports study found that consumers getting electronics, furniture, appliances, or other items from rent-to-own stores easily end up paying two to three times the amount it would cost to buy the same itemsoutright from a traditional retailer. And in some cases, people are paying triple-digit interest rates to get what they want.
Here are two questions posed by Consumer Reports: Would you buy a $600 computer knowing that it would cost you nearly $1,900 after less than a year's worth of payments? How about a $1,000 washer-dryer combination at an equivalent interest rate of 100 percent, leaving you $2,700 out of pocket after two and a half years?
When they go the rent-to-own route, it seems lots of people are doing just that.
The rent-to-own industry says it provides an essential service for those who are unable to obtain credit from banks or traditional retailers, thereby preventing them from getting items they want or need, according to the Consumer Reports investigation.
"I think that the rent-to-own model generally is a remarkably expensive way to obtain what you need," said Jim Sugarman, a Washington State assistant attorney general in the consumer-protection division. "There is usually a better way to obtain what you want if you do a little planning and have a little patience."
Amen to that.
Still Recovering from the Recession
In another survey, Consumer Reports found many middle class Americans are still feeling the sting of the recession. No surprise there either.
The Consumer Reports Index, produced monthly by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, found that in the past two years, lower-income households have been burdened with an employment environment that was shedding more jobs than it is creating, while more affluent Americans hardly experienced a decline, and have benefited from a much healthier market that appears to be adding more jobs than it is losing.
One of the key reasons there’s a disparity has been the inability of lower income households to afford medical coverage and prescription medication.
“We are seeing a tale of two very different recoveries,” said Ed Farrell, a director of Survey Research at the Consumer Reports National Research Center. “While things have been improving for the wealthiest Americans for some time, lower-income families still have very little to be positive about.”
Responses to Dude, Where’s My Raise
An OfficeTeam survey found that more employees are accepting promotions without financial incentives.
I wanted to know: Has this happened to you lately? How would you feel if you got a promotion that didn’t come with more money? Here are a few responses.
Rebecca Boodt of San Jose wrote: “Given that many companies are only doing a 2 percent or 3 percent raise these days, what are you really missing? At that point, is it the principal of the raise, rather than the money itself? I would happily take an extra week of vacation in lieu of a 2 percent raise. Depending on the extra duties, negotiating for a revisit of the money issue might be prudent after six months, as well.”
“One of my family members was offered a supervisory position that would have come with a raise. However, she would have had to work more hours and her pay would have been calculated on a clients-per-hour basis. Therefore, more hours would have resulted in a smaller paycheck, even though she would have received a raise,” wrote Brenda Layman of Pickerington, Ohio. “Employers can get away with these pseudo-raises because of high unemployment.”
Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.
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