Nothing shows the pendulum swinging away from home ownership and towards rentals more clearly than the latest vacancy data from the Census Bureau.
National vacancy rates in the third quarter 2010 were 10.3 percent for rental housing, a decline of 0.8 percentage points lower than the rate recorded in the third quarter 2009 and 0.3 percentage points lower than last quarter. That’s a 7 percent decline in one year.
The number of vacant homes has soared over the past four years from about 16 million at the start of 2006. It has been hovering around 19 million since the end of 2008, or about 2.5 percent of all homes. However, the overall homeownership rate is .7 percent lower than a year ago and 14.4 percent of total single family homes are now vacant and 28 percent are rented. Only 57.2 percent of all housing units are now occupied by their owners, a drop of .5 percent in a year, or 308,000 homes.
The data surfaced the growing inventory of vacant foreclosed homes and vacant homes that are not selling in this market. About 2.7 percent of total properities included these categories. Vacant units that were held off market comprised 5.4 percent of the total housing stock. Of these units, 1.7 percent were for occasional use, 1.0 percent were temporarily occupied by persons with usual residence elsewhere.
The homeowner vacancy rate in principal cities (2.9 percent) was higher than in the suburbs (2.4 percent) and outside MSA’s (2.3 percent). The 2.4 percent and the 2.3 percent were not statistically different from each other. The homeowner vacancy rates in principal cities, in the suburbs, and outside MSA’s were not statistically different from their corresponding rates a year ago.
Among regions, the rental vacancy rate was highest in the South (12.9 percent). Rates were lower in the Northeast (7.4 percent) and West (8.1 percent), but these rates were not statistically different from each other. The rental vacancy rates in the South and West were lower than in the third quarter 2009, while rates in the Northeast and Midwest remained statistically unchanged from a year ago. For the third quarter 2010, the homeowner vacancy rate was lowest in the Northeast (1.6 percent). The homeowner vacancy rate in the Northeast was lower than in the third quarter 2009, while rates in other regions were not significantly different from a year ago.