More homes throughout the United States stood vacant as the homeownership rate continued its downward march, according to statistics released today by the Census Bureau.
The homeowner vacancy rate increased to 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 2.5 percent a quarter earlier, but steady compared to a year ago.
Meanwhile, the rental vacancy rate fell to 9.4 percent from 10.3 percent, signaling a move from home to apartment for many Americans hard-hit by the ongoing crisis.
The homeownership rate slipped to 66.5 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 66.9 percent a quarter earlier and 67.2 percent last year.
It remains at its lowest level since early 1999, meaning the last decade in housing growth is largely lost.
Homeownership has fallen disproportionately for Blacks and Hispanics, who have seen about three percent declines compared to just one percent for Whites over the past five years.
Approximately 7.2 million homes are being held off the market, many held by major banks and mortgage lenders, who are trying to reign in falling home prices and reduce losses.
This so-called shadow inventory could weigh down home prices for years, despite traditional inventory numbers falling more in line with historic norms.
Roughly two million homes were listed for sale in the fourth quarter nationwide.