Voters and Policymakers on Different Pages Regarding Pro-Housing Policies

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A recent poll of people likely to vote in 2012 reveals a significant disconnect between voters and policymakers on the value of housing and homeownership.

Almost three quarters of American voters think it is reasonable and appropriate for the federal government to provide tax incentives to promote homeownership, according to the poll, which was conducted on behalf of the NAHB in early May.

Moreover, the poll showed that an overwhelming majority of respondents oppose eliminating the mortgage interest deduction and would be less likely to support a candidate for Congress who wants to do away with this vital tax incentive. The survey was conducted for NAHB by noted pollsters Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va. and Lake Research Partners of Washington, D.C.

“As members of Congress move forward to consider spending controls and cuts per the debt ceiling agreement of Aug. 2, NAHB urges that they give careful consideration to how those measures will affect the health of the housing sector,” said Barry Rutenberg, first vice chairman of NAHB and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.

“The housing market needs more certainty with respect to housing policy and access to capital via the mortgage markets. Making the right decisions will help stabilize housing prices and give households the chance to repair their balance sheets and set the stage for more robust economic growth,” he said.

“Despite the prolonged downturn in the housing market, homeownership remains a core value for Americans,” Rutenberg said. “Owning a home is still an essential part of the American Dream and voters would strongly oppose any efforts by lawmakers to increase barriers to homeownership.”

Two thousand likely 2012 voters were surveyed in early May to assess the public’s attitude in the wake of the Great Recession towards housing, the mortgage interest deduction and the value of homeownership.

Among the poll’s key findings:

  • 73 percent of all respondents — both owners and renters — think the federal government should provide tax incentives to promote homeownership. This support for housing runs strong among all party affiliations, with 79 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Independents agreeing with this statement.
  • 71 percent of voters oppose proposals to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction and 63 percent oppose efforts to reduce it. A majority are also against eliminating the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans, ending the deduction for interest paid on a second home, limiting the deduction for those earning more than $250,000 per year or capping the deduction for home owners with mortgages over $500,000.
  • By a more than two-to-one margin (57 percent to 26 percent), voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports eliminating the mortgage interest deduction. These figures held firm across the political spectrum, with 63 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Independents, 55 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of tea party supporters saying they would be less likely to support a candidate who favored doing away with the deduction.
  • Even when told that eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would help ease the federal budget deficit, 65 percent of voters opposed any proposal to abolish the housing tax provision. This strong consensus cuts across partisan lines, with 69 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents and 59 percent of Democrats opposing eliminating the deduction.

“In recent years we have seen a number of proposals to eliminate or curtail the mortgage interest deduction and other housing-related tax breaks such as the deductions for property taxes, interest on home equity loans and interest on second home mortgages,” said Rutenberg. “Such measures would drive up the cost of housing and make it much harder for people to achieve homeownership. This is in direct opposition to the views of most Americans, who want the government to encourage growth in bthe housing market and to maintain tax incentives to keep housing affordable.”

The polling data also shows:

  • 75 percent of voters say that owning a home is the best long-term investment they can make.
  • 73 percent of voters who do not now own a home say that it is a goal of theirs to eventually buy a home.
  • Almost all home owners — 95 percent — say they are happy with their decision to own a home and believe that owning their own home is important.

“Members of Congress who think that homeownership and housing choice should no longer be national priorities would be well-served to study the results of this poll,” Rutenberg said. “If Congress eliminates long-standing policies that support the goal of homeownership and help keep housing affordable, lawmakers could be in for a rude awakening in the 2012 elections.”

(Editor’s Note: To view the poll slides, please go to www.nahb.org/voterpoll.)

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