Owning a home is deeply ingrained in the American psyche. It is etched in its sacred documents and through the years has remained a touchstone of the mythological American success story. The dream has its roots with the first colonists coming from the old world to the new. The pioneers drove it relentlessly west, helped by Manifest Destiny. The dream burst forth with the more recent picket-fenced idyll of a frictionless life in the new, endless suburbs after World War II. America grew up with the belief there is space for people to have homes of their own.

“We had places to go, we could get out of the cities,” said Lisa Sturtevant, a public policy professor at George Mason University, of this American craving for a home to call one’s own. “We like our space.”

But now in the wake of the economic catastrophe triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis decimated homeowner’s equity and put more than a million homes into foreclosure, the promise of widespread homeownership is under threat. Americans aren’t quite ready to give up on the dream, however. President Obama called owning a home a “cornerstone of the American Dream”and 70 percent of Americans in a recent survey agree. Despite these harsh obstacles, the dream of a white picket fence and two car garage lives on.