With foreclosures still rising and potential homebuyers still reluctant to get into the market, homeownership in the United States hit a 10-year low during the fourth[IMAGE]quarter of 2009. According to ""data released by the Census Bureau"":http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/hvs/qtr409/files/q409press.pdf last week, the homeownership rate fell to 67.2 percent at the end of last year.
That's down from 67.6 percent the previous quarter and 67.5 percent one year earlier. It represents the lowest percentage of Americans who own a home since the second quarter of 2000. Homeownership has been on a steady downward slope since 2006, when it became evident that more and more borrowers were put into loans they couldn't afford and housing woes began to eat away at the government's long-time push to make the American Dream a reality for anyone that wanted it.
Mike Larson, a real estate analyst for Weiss Research Inc., told the _Wall Street Journal_, ""You can do all kinds of things to get people into a house, which we did; the real problem is making it so they can stay there.""
Regionally, homeownership rates are highest in the Midwest (71.3 percent) and in the South (69.1 percent) where housing is considered relatively affordable. They are lowest in the West (62.3 percent) and the Northeast (63.9 percent) where home prices are on the higher end of the spectrum.
Relative to a year ago, the biggest decline, though, was in the South (down 0.7 points) and in the West (down 0.4 points), where you can find the foreclosure hotspots of Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada.
The Census Bureau also reported that the percentage of vacant homes in the U.S. rose from 2.6 percent in the third quarter of last year to 2.7 percent in the fourth. All told, there were 2.09 million homes sitting empty and available for sale at the end of last year, up from 1.99 million three months earlier, the agency said. As _Bloomberg_ explained, this number includes both listed properties and those that banks have repossessed and have not yet listed.
Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight, told _BusinessWeek_, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The vacancy rate captures all the properties that are being held off the market by banks, so it shows how much excess inventory there really is.""