In real-dollars, housing is still more expensive than the trough of the 90s. Of course, the Fed needed to drop interest rates to zero to keep housing prices inflated.
It will be very interesting to see what happens to home prices once interest rates return to sane levels.
Edit: Relevant - http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/11/26/mortgage-interest-ded...
Post 2008, I imagine that much of the country is unsure that such a price increase will occur over the next decade. Faced with an uncertain future value of a home versus a defined cost for renting an apartment, perhaps more people will choose renting to avoid facing cognitive dissonance over this matter.
1) the original price of the home and the "well being" of the neighborhood therein. Oftentimes, high mortgages and property taxes can nullify any perceived gains.
2) rentals are seen as income (whether they break even or not) so they are not eligible for the same refinancing opportunities that one may find with a residence.
3) rentals, depending on the home and the tenants, aren't always low maintenance. There are ways to let others handle this for you, but that taps into any revenues as well.
All in all, in desirable locales (e.g. SF Bay Area), unless a property was snatched up pre-2007, many landlords I know are not breaking even. Finding "deals" from foreclosures, or severely depressed areas, were the main recent opportunities for many (IMO).