Both homeownership and vacancy rates were essentially unchanged
in the first quarter of this year according to data released on Thursday by the
U.S. Census Bureau. The national
homeownership rate slipped 0.4 percentage point to 64.2 percent compared to the
fourth quarter of 2018 but was unchanged from a year earlier.
The national vacancy rate was 7.0 percent, identical to
the first quarters in each of the last four years. It was, however 0.4 point higher than the
previous quarter, a change the Bureau called not statistically significant.
The homeownership rate reached a record high of 69.2
percent during several quarters during 2004 to 2006 and then declined steadily
through the housing crisis and the recovery, hitting a low of 62.9 percent in
the second quarter of 2016. The Q4 2018
rate of 64.8 percent was the highest since an identical rate in the first
quarter of 2014.
The rate was highest in the Midwest at 68.2 percent
and lowest in the West with a 59.8 percent rate. The rates in all four regions were down
slightly from the previous quarter and in all but the South were fractionally higher
The rate for all age cohorts slipped from the fourth
quarter, most dramatically for those in the under 35 group, which declined by more
than a point to 35.4 percent. The next
youngest group’s rate fell from 61.1 percent to 60.3 percent, but three oldest
groups did not change significantly. On
an annual basis all age groups either improved their rate or it stayed the same
with the exception of those 45 to 54 years old. That rate declined a half-point
to 69.5 percent.
The differential in the homeownership rates of white
Americans and that of other groups continues to grow. The rate for whites was 73.2 percent, nearly
a point higher than a year earlier while the rate for African-Americans was 41.1
percent, Asians/Pacific Islanders 56.9 percent, Hispanics, 47.4 percent and
other races 53.9 percent. All were down
from the previous first quarter and the rate for African Americans was the
lowest in at least the 12 quarters of data posted in the report.
The Census Bureau estimates there were 139.131 million
housing unit in the U.S. at the end of the first quarter, an increase of 1.09
million quarter-over quarter. An estimated 87.9 percent were occupied, 56.5
percent by the owner and 31.4 percent by a tenant. That leaves 12.1 percent vacant, but a substantial
number are unavailable for rent or sale for various reasons and not included in
the vacancy rate.
The median asking rent for vacant rental units was
$1,006 in the first quarter, up from a median of $947 in the fourth quarter. The median asking price for sale units declined
to $208,300 from $232,000.