Homeownership in the U.S. dropped for a fourth consecutive quarter, the longest string of declines since at least 1981, a sign that the key means of building assets for millions of Americans is weakening.
The homeownership rate, the percentage of households that own their residences, fell to 68.1 percent in the July-September period from 68.3 percent in the prior three months, according to a report today from the Census Bureau in Washington. The rate has been declining from a peak in 2004, which culminated a decade of gains fueled by easier lending standards and rising ownership for immigrants and younger households.
And now for the worst part of the report:
The Census Bureau report also found that a record 17.9 million U.S. homes stood empty in the third quarter as lenders took possession of a growing number of properties in foreclosure.
The figure is a 7.8 percent gain from a year ago, when 16.6 million properties were vacant, the Census Bureau said. About 2.07 million empty homes were for sale, compared with 1.94 million a year earlier, the report said.
There is no way to spin that number as anything but horrible. A 7.8% increase in the number of vacant homes is an indication there are serious problems in the housing market. And with credit conditions getting tighter there is really only one direction to go from here -- down.