There is a whole range of research on this - much of which does not identify housing as an important part of what makes people happy.
Consider for example "Lay Theories of Happiness" by Furnham and Cheng 2000 (see page 233, Table 2):
The higher the X, the more important it was to happiness.
6. People tend to be happy if they live in good housing: X = 4.23
The authors wrote: "...mean scores between 3.50 and 4.50 were considered undecided or “Neutral”.
Perhaps it is true that housing is not one of the most important determinants of happiness.
The most important things which make people happy the authors identified were:
- Loving parents
- Close friends, many friends they like
- Loved and accepted by other people
- High self-esteem
- Freedom to live as they wish
- Doing a job they like
- A bright outlook on life
- Content with what they have
I agree with the lay person if they say happiness depends strongly on the above.