According to the US Census Bureau, as reported on the NBC News website, the US home ownership rate in the second quarter of 2016 fell to 62.9% -- the lowest level in 50 years.
A big factor is the Millennials. 60% are renting or living with roommates. The weak job market plus the crushing burden of student debt make this very understandable. But is the problem just a temporary one? Or is it serious enough to undermine the whole concept of home ownership as being an essential part of the "American Dream"?
The article quotes research showing that 90% of Millennials still hope to buy their own home...some day. But dollars and cents force more and more of them to look at secondary markets where house prices may be lower. This is in turn means they have to be more flexible and adaptable when it comes to employment, which plays into the "gig economy" mindset in any case.
What seems to be unarguably true is that the dream, even if it (eventually) includes a house, no longer means the traditional white picket fence and the lifelong job with one company. We can kiss that fantasy good-bye.
For marketers, this means more complexity. There will be significant delays in treating many Millennials as home owners, as opposed to renters, and therefore delays in being able to sell home-related products and services. Or some of those products and services may have to be scaled differently or priced differently. Most significantly, the whole notion of "independence" will have to beredefined -- or at least, be given some credible and respectful offshoots: What if you're a renter into your 40s? Or longer? Does that mean you have "failed" to realize the "American dream"? Does that mean marketers consider you a second class citizen? Or are they pursuing you anyway, because that's what the consumer life stage model has always told them to do, and they don't realize (although it's hard to believe) that your entire life pattern is going to be radically different than what's been seen before?