Why won't millenials just buy houses already?

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators dance as hundreds of protesters gather during a May Day labor rally in Bryant Park on May 1, 2012 in New York City.

Millennials get blamed for a lot these days: entitled behavior, too much texting, kombucha.

Now, there's one more thing that's kind of their fault (but only kind of), according to a new report from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies: the sluggish housing recovery.

"Young people are always the key to the housing market," says Chris Herbert, the center's director of research. He says an expanding housing market requires a chain reaction -- young people buy starter homes from middle-aged people, who in turn upgrade to bigger homes themselves, and on and on. But "without those young buyers coming in to the market, the whole market really tends to get bogged down."

And that's what’s happened in the past few years. So what do millennials have to say for themselves for all this bogging-down they're doing of the housing market?

Of course no one millennial can speak for their whole generation, but 29-year-old Steve Parkhurst gave it his best shot in his recent Youtube video "Millennials: We Suck and We’re Sorry."

When I asked Parkhurst why he didn't own a house, he laughed.

"I've tried to increase my credit limit on my credit cards," he says. "I can't even do that — so the idea of walking into a bank and asking for a 30-year mortgage seems comical to me."

Parkhurst says the economic realities facing many millennials — student-loan debt, low-paying freelance jobs, and scary unemployment rates for most of his adult life — have kept him and lots of his friends from even thinking about real estate, he says.

"It's not like we're all too hip and cool to want it," he says. "I love the idea of owning a home. But at the moment it's just not a possibility."

Maybe, he hopes, he might own by the time he's 40.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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