The homeownership rate (the proportion of total occupied housing units that are owner-occupied) of 67.1 percent was 0.2 percentage point (±0.4 percent) lower than the 1Q2009 rate and 0.1 percentage point (±0.4 percent) lower than the 4Q2009 rate. The relative changes in this rate were not statistically significant, either. If the homeownership rate of 67.1 percent is correct, however, it is the lowest since 1Q2000.
One interesting aspect of these data is that the rental and homeowner vacancy rates are both declining. If foreclosures were forcing households from their homes (as the drop in the homeownership rate seems to indicate is happening), one would expect the homeowner vacancy rate to rise and the rental vacancy rate to fall. The Census Bureau provided no analysis of why both rates fell.
Another interesting observation is that the number of homes “held off market” increased by 1.0 percent (from 14.2 million to 14.4 million) in 1Q2010. The number of vacancies in all other categories either shrank or remained essentially unchanged during that same time. The “held off market” category includes units “held for occasional use, temporarily occupied by persons with usual residence elsewhere, and vacant for other reasons.” The report did not detail which of the three subcategories increased or why.
Particularly because the percentage of total housing inventory that is vacant year-round ticked higher in 1Q2010, the implications of this report are not encouraging for forest landowners and forest products manufacturers. Until a significant dent is made in that percentage, the need for new construction will be muted.