Stephen Mihm, at Bloomberg here:
While home ownership became increasingly popular in the early twentieth century, the U.S. was still a majority-renter nation in 1930, though by this time homeowners numbered 48 percent of the total population. But the Great Depression knocked that figure back down to 43 percent, roughly on par with late nineteenth century levels.
Things changed dramatically in the 1940s, when home ownership levels began moving toward unprecedented highs, hitting 66 percent by 1980. Economists are still arguing over why that happened, but the most compelling explanations are pretty banal and do little to support the sentimental blather associated with home ownership.
Through 1933 there were over 1 million completed foreclosures, about 1% of US population of the time. Compare that to the current crisis. We've had 8.5 million completed foreclosures since 2004, about 2.5% of population.
Homeownership as a cultural value in the post-war was so high because so many people lost their homes before it.
And it still is today and will continue to be, despite what some people say with an axe to grind from the safety of their sinecures.