With fewer people buying homes, millennials are redefining the American Dream

(NBC News/Nicole Audrey) — Home ownership in America is not nearly as common as it was in the past. Census Bureau figures show that in the second quarter of 2016, the home ownership rate dropped to 62.9 percent — the lowest in more than 50 years.

Are we witnessing the death of the American Dream of home ownership and a white picket fence?

Perhaps not. A recent survey showed that even though 62 percent of millennials are renting or living with roommates, almost 90 percent want to be homeowners.

And a recent report by the apartment rental website Zumper found that 71 percent of its users do still think the American Dream entails home ownership.

Zumper's study was conducted over the summer, comprising more than 6,000 responses, Tanguy Le Louarn, digital marketing/growth lead at Zumper said.

The poll was conducted randomly, said Le Louarn, who noted that Zumper users "skew a bit younger than the average American population, and also tend to be city dwellers." Additionally, Zumper's user base is 60 percent women, he said.

We can infer that a fair amount of people aren't renting and residing with roommates because that's their idea of living the American Dream, but because they're not in a position to buy a home. This makes sense when you consider the onus of student debt, which according to a recent Harvard study, affects 42 percent of millennials between 18 and 29 years old.

"You're seeing a rise in entrepreneurship and people looking to create the jobs they want and trying to balance it with a more idealized version of their lives instead of sticking with one company for 40 years and retiring to Florida with a comfortable pension."

"I'd like to [buy a home] somewhere in Massachusetts, but I'll settle for anywhere that isn't the deep south or the midwest or L.A," said Kirstin Kelley, a 25-year-old writer based in Portland, Oregon. "It feels moderately doable, but only if I stick to paying the minimum on my student loans and eventually get them forgiven."

Kelley and her partner have a total of around $150,000 in student debt, a daunting figure that she says keeps her stuck in "survival mode."

Also standing in Kelley's way of home ownership is the transient nature of her work life.

"I think we'll do whatever it takes to make it happen, but it's only economically expedient [to buy a home] if we know we're going to stay for more than a year or two or even three, and right now things are just far too up in the air," Kelley said.

Buying a home doesn't make sense if you could be soon relocating for work, which brings us to another pillar of the American Dream that has collapsed: the idea that you stick at the same company for years and years. A January report from State Street Global Advisors found that 60 percent of all millennials have changed jobs between one and four times in the last five years.

But while Kelley and other millennials may pine for the security of home ownership, there's also appreciation for not being tied down to a place.

"Millennials appreciate the flexibility of being transient or living in areas with great amenities but a high cost of living, so owning is next to impossible," said Erin Lowry, ‎founder of Broke Millennial. "People prefer not to get saddled with a mortgage payment if they might move in a few years."

Millennials are also proud to be redefining the American Dream, Lowry suggested.

"The traditional white picket fence with 2.5 children may no longer be the gold-standard, but the notion of being able to take control of your destiny and create your own success is strong in the millennial generation," said Lowry.

"You're seeing a rise in entrepreneurship and people looking to create the jobs they want and trying to balance it with a more idealized version of their lives instead of sticking with one company for 40 years and retiring to Florida with a comfortable pension."

Read the original story at NBCNews.com.

Copyright 2016 NBC News


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