The economic hammer has fallen especially hard on 20somethings — part of the so-called Millennial Generation or Gen Y. Plagued by high unemployment, many have had to delay careers, marriage and having children. And the idea of owning a home is more often being put off or written off entirely. More of them are renting.
In a nation where homeownership is part of the American dream, a generation of renters could alter communities where they live and redefine the idea of middle-class success.
"They've seen what their parents are dealing with, what their brothers and sisters are dealing with, in terms of being saddled with homes whose values are less than what they paid," says Paul Conway, a former chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor who is now president of Generation Opportunity, a think tank specializing in the economics of Generation Y.
Sociologist Katherine Newman, agrees with Conway that we may be witnessing the creation of a generation of renters.
Even with big drops in housing prices and interest rates, getting a mortgage has become a lot harder since the housing boom of the early 2000s. Most lenders now require a rock-steady source of income and a substantial down payment before they will even look at potential borrowers. And many millennials won't be able to reach that steep threshold.
Rolf Pendall, a housing expert at the Urban Institute think tank, says too much emphasis has been placed on homeownership in the past few decades, not only by individuals, but by governments and policymakers. So a shift in attitudes might be a good thing.
Pendall thinks many or most current renters will eventually become homeowners, even if it takes them longer to make that transition than it did for their parents.
"There are people who will be making the transition to homeownership sooner and there are people who will be making the transition later. And some never will. That's always been the case, but that last number will probably be larger," he says.
Homeownership will be out of reach for many younger adults in the U.S., according to several sociologists and housing analysts, leading to a rise in the number of renters.
A potential economic upside to a rise in renters: less of what economists call "housing lock," when homeowners can't move to take a new job because they're saddled with houses they can't sell.
If we all lived in a place where we rented more freely, moving from place to place would be easier.
Jason Dorsey, 33, who consults and writes about Generation Y, says when you're talking about his generation, everything is taking a back seat to the limp economy.
"When we finally graduate from college, we're older than ever before. When we finally get married, we're older than ever before; finally have our first child, we're older. All of these things are pushing back," says Dorsey, author of My Reality Check Bounced!
For many, homeownership just doesn't make sense until careers, kids and finances are sorted out.
Renting is more flexible when you are not sure where we are going to be in a few years. They are also concerned about long-term financial liabilities.
If you are interested in renting an apartment in Glen Allen, VA, and the flexibility that renting offers, contact The Gardens at Twin Hickory.