The American dream of homeownership has been evolving since just after World War II, when the middle class started to grow and mortgages became more available. Families typically lived in homes and paid them off. But in the 1970s, as home values began to steadily climb, the dream evolved. Families sold their first homes, made a profit and moved up to nicer ones, sometimes time and again. Always, steady growth in home values helped pave the way to financial security.
For many people, the housing crash unraveled that idea. Risky mortgages or job losses led to foreclosure for some. Plummeting home values left many more with a mortgage to pay but no equity.