The U.S. homeownership rate fell by less than half-a-point in the second quarter to 65.9% as foreclosures accelerated and consumers put off buying homes because of fears about prices and the economy.
Friday’s Census Bureau report shows the homeownership rate has fallen one full percentage point from a year ago to the lowest level since 1998.
Every one percent point drop in the rate means 1.1 million fewer households own a home.
Foreclosures have taken the heaviest toll on minorities, which saw a slight decline in their ownership rates in 2Q. Roughly 44.2% of African-Americans owned their own home during the period, compared to 44.8% in 1Q. The rate for Hispanics slipped a tick to 46.6%.
The ownership rate for whites fell slightly to 73.7% in the second quarter.
The weaker readings suggest robosigning-related foreclosure moratoriums are coming to an end with servicers opting to foreclose instead of waiting.
The Census Bureau report also showed that the number of vacant single-family homes that are for sale fell nearly 7% during the first-half to 1.95 million units. The historical norm for such inventory is in the range of 1.25 million to 1.5 million units. Housing economists believe the overhang of these unsold units puts downward pressure on home values.