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Homeownership Down Below ’90s Levels; Vacancy Rate Little Changed

home-key [1]The nation's homeownership rate dropped to 63.7 percent in Q1, more than a full percentage point below the average rate throughout the 1990s of 64.9 percent, according to data released [2] by the U.S. Census Bureau [3] on Tuesday.

Q1's homeownership rate represented a decline of 1.1 percentage points from the same quarter in 2014 and 0.3 percentage points from Q4 2014. The homeowner housing vacancy rate for Q1 was reported at 1.9 percent, which was a year-over-year decline of only 0.1 percentage points and virtually the same as the rate reported for Q4.

The homeownership rates declined by at least 0.6 percentage points year-over-year in all age categories (under 35; 35 to 44; 45 to 54; 55 to 64; and 65 and older), with the largest decline coming in the 35 to 44 age group (2.3 percentage points, from 60.7 down to 58.4 percent.

The 65 and older group had the highest homeownership rate in Q1 2015 at 79 percent, while the under 35 group had the lowest rate for the quarter at 34.6 percent. The rates increased as the groups got older: age 35 to 44 was at 58.4 percent, age 45 to 54 was at 70.1 percent, and age 55 to 64 was at 75.8 percent.

"[O]ver the last year, the homeownership rate for households headed by an individual younger than 35 declined by 1.6 percentage points," wrote NAHB economist Robert Dietz on the Eye on Housing [4] blog. "While the decline for those aged 35 to 44 was larger (and larger among all age cohorts with a drop of 2.3 percentage points), the percentage decline (4.4 percent from the level of the first quarter of 2014) was largest for this younger than 35 class."

The vacancy rate for owned homes of 1.9 percent, though little changed year-over-year and from the previous quarter, has been slowly but steadily declining since hitting a peak of 2.89 percent in 2008 at the height of the recession, according to the Census Bureau.

The percentage of homes with a mortgage and a family income equal to or greater than the nation's median family income in Q1 was 78.4, while the percentage of households with a mortgage and a family income less than the nation's median income was reported to be 48.9 percent, according to the Census Bureau.

The year-over-year gain in households, which was reported at slightly less than 1.5 million, marks good news as far as housing demand goes, according to Dietz.