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A smaller percentage of American households own their own homes today than at any time since 1998, a dramatic decline from the all-time high in homeownership just six years ago

Homeownership Tanks to 12 Year Low

A smaller percentage of American households own their own homes today than at any time since 1998, a dramatic decline from the all-time high in homeownership just six years ago.

The homeownership gap between white and minority households is approaching 30 percent, greater than it has ever been as long as data has been kept.

The national homeownership rate fell to a seasonally adjusted 66.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Census Bureau, down .4 percent from the third quarter and .7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2009. Homeownership reached its all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2004, at 69 percent. The last time homeownership was lower than it is today was the fourth quarter of 1998, at 66.5 percent.

Among minorities, homeownership rates fell even more and. Only 44.8 percent of Black households now own their own homes, down from 48 percent in 2007. Among Hispanics, 46.8 percent are homeowners, down from 50.1 percent in 2007. Non-Hispanic Whites have a homeownership rate of 74.2 percent.

The gap between white and minority homeownership increased significantly since the national homeownership rate peaked in 2007. The homeownership gap between Blacks and Whites increased by 2.1 percent over the past three years to 29.4 percent. The gap between Hispanics and Whites increased by 2.2 percent, to 27.4 percent. The gap between both Whites and Hispanics and Whites and Blacks is greater today than it has been at any time since Census began keeping ethnicity homeownership data in 1994.

The West, which has suffered more foreclosures than other regions of the nation in recent years, also recorded the homeownership rate, at 61 percent. The Midwest reported the highest homeownership rate, at 70.3 percent.

At the same time that homeownership fell, so did rental vacancies, Census reported. The national vacancy rate for rental housing fell by 1.3 percent over the past year while the vacancy rate for homeowner housing stayed about the same.

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