Four Letters Ease Housing Fears For Some: Rent The rental market hasn't seen an uptick in business even though home sales continue to decline. The rental vacancy rate is at 10.6 percent, near an all-time high. But changing attitudes may boost the rental market going forward.

Four Letters Ease Housing Fears For Some: Rent

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


Not the case, as NPR's Joshua Brockman reports.

JOSHUA BROCKMAN: Even though the home ownership rate is falling, there hasn't been a rise in the number of people renting. Mark Obrinsky is an economist for the National Multi Housing Council, a trade group for the apartment industry.

MARK OBRINSKY: The weak economy is sapping that demand as people go back home to live with mom and dad, or with a brother or sister, or they take on a roommate or become someone's roommate.

BROCKMAN: And former homeowners, like Jesus Felizzola, are seeing the advantages of renting. He is relieved to be renting a studio apartment in one of Washington, D.C.'s posh neighborhoods.

JESUS FELIZZOLA: This is what you get for $1,800 a month - a little box in Dupont Circle.

BROCKMAN: It's a far cry from the three-bedroom house he once owned in North Miami Beach. He moved to the nation's capital to take a dream job as a medical researcher. But his experience with homeownership turned into a nightmare when he had to sell his home at a substantial loss.

FELIZZOLA: I decided to rent out of fear of not feeling comfortable about investing again. I decided to rent out of, well, I would say economic reality.

BROCKMAN: Nicolas Retsinas is the director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. He says the federal government is now wrestling with this issue.

NICOLAS RETSINAS: Should we continue to favor homeownership or should we seek a more balanced housing policy, talking more about giving people options, worrying more about whether people have a decent place to live, than whether they own or rent.

BROCKMAN: Attitudes about renting have also changed. Retsinas says rent is no longer a four-letter word.

RETSINAS: In the past, you rented if you didn't make enough money. You rented if you weren't ambitious. You rented if you weren't sort of smart enough. But as it turns out, as we look in recent years, renting turned out to be a pretty smart thing to do.

BROCKMAN: Joshua Brockman, NPR News.

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