U.S. Homeownership Stuck at Lowest Level Since 1999

home ownership
home ownership

The U.S. homeownership rate during the third quarter was unchanged from the previous quarter, stuck at its lowest level in almost 11 years. The numbers, released in a Census Bureau report Tuesday, indicate little progress in Americans' efforts to save their homes from foreclosure or buy new ones.

During the third quarter, 66.9% of U.S. households owned their homes, the same as the second quarter and down from 67.6% a year earlier, according to the report. Before the second quarter, homeownership rates hadn't fallen below the 67% threshold since the fourth quarter of 1999. Rates hit a recent high of 69.2% in 2004.

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Homeowners and prospective buyers appear to be making little progress as millions of homes have been foreclosed upon since the most recent recession began in late 2007. Although the Federal Government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) has tried to get financial institutions to modify home loans, TARP has been responsible for less than half of the 467,000 permanent loan modifications since its inception, while homeowners have lost 1.7 million homes through foreclosure since January 2009, according to a report from TARP's Special Inspector General late last month.

Meanwhile, U.S. existing home sales in September fell 19% from a year earlier, while the median sales price was down about 2%, the National Association of Realtors said on Oct. 25. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun characterized the pending recovery in the housing market as "choppy."

At 71.1%, third-quarter homeownership rates were highest in the Midwest, while the West region had the lowest rate, at 61.3%, according to the Census Bureau.