It seems like every day there is a new twist to the housing crisis and mortgage meltdown – from ‘robo-signing’ to the latest stats that rising rents and falling property values are changing the cost of home ownership in some of the nation’s top markets.

Many are asking is it really cheaper to own now than rent? The surge in foreclosures has forced high numbers of homeowners into the rental market, which means demand is up and outpacing the availability of affordable rental units. Home values and prices continue to tumble, making the cost of ownership a better financial proposition than leasing. Is this a natural correction that’s going to boost homeownership and lower inventories? Not so fast.

With so many Americans out of work and on credit tightropes, you aren’t going to see a surge in mortgage applications any time soon. Mortgage credit and other qualifications are still strict and unlikely to loosen up in the near future. Instead, we may see a real housing crisis – one in which families can’t afford to rent or buy standard housing. tells us that the top five markets in which to buy are Arlington, TX, Fresno, CA, Miami, FL, and Mesa and Phoenix, AZ.

“Choosing to buy a home or continue to rent is a highly personal financial and life decision that many people are grappling with right now,” said Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia. ”In the wake of the foreclosure crisis and ongoing struggles in the industry, we created the Rent vs. Buy Index to provide a bit more context about current marketplace conditions to help prospective buyers make the right decisions for their own personal situations.”

High foreclosure rates, falling home prices and widespread unemployment have all contributed to the trend.