Homeownership Lowest in Almost 50 Years; Census Data Reveals Erosion

by 28 Aug 2012

(TheNicheReport) -- A home that a family can call their own is one of the tenets of the American Dream, or at least it was during the 20th century. The housing market boom and precipitous crash of the 21st century managed to alter that dream, and now the rate of homeownership is the lowest since former President Eisenhower was in the White House. 

According to data compiled by the United States Census Bureau in recent years, the rate of homeownership is 65.5 percent, a low number considering that 80 percent of all residential structures in the country are single-family residences. The rest of the dwellings in the U.S. are multifamily residences like apartment buildings and attached town homes. 

When taking into consideration that 3.8 million mortgage borrowers are currently more than 90 days delinquent on their primary home loans, the rate of ownership seems even lower. There is no guarantee that those 3.8 million homeowners will be able to get back on track with regard to their mortgage debt; in fact, many of them are probably in foreclosure proceedings. To this end, a more accurate rate of homeownership in the U.S. is closer to 62.1 percent. 

Over the last ten years, the highest rate of homeownership was during 2003 and 2004, around 69 percent. In 2006, the rate began a vertiginous drop as monthly mortgage payments were receding. By 2008, a year that is widely recognized as the apex of the financial crisis, the high levels of mortgage delinquency had brought the rate down to below 63 percent. 

Economists and policy makers have been paying attention to this downward trend, which is why initiatives like the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the National Foreclosure Settlement Agreement of 2012 are put in place. Unfortunately, other factors like the economic recession, deep unemployment and a general disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street are to blame. 

Although many families in the U.S. have turned to rental properties as their housing solution, the American Dream is still very much alive and homeownership continues to be a major aspect. That dream, however, will require a general improvement of the employment situation and a reduction of consumer debt before it can be pursued again.

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