LOS ANGELES — The homeownership rate in the U.S. fell to 65.4 percent in the first quarter, hitting a 15-year low amid still-high foreclosure rates and a stronger market for rents.
The rate is lower than the 66 percent from the fourth quarter and the 66.4 percent from the first quarter of last year, according to the Census Bureau. The rate hit a high of 69.2 percent in 2004, before the housing bubble burst.
The housing market has been trying to recover ever since. Several reports in April suggested that the market has turned a corner, with pending home sales up and housing values predicted to begin rising.
But foreclosure rates are still high and may continue to increase following a landmark settlement with loan servicers earlier this year.
In the first quarter, 74.6 million housing units were occupied by owners. Homeownership is down in every region, falling to 59.9 percent in the West. That region, which has the lowest rate in the country, hasn’t had such a small percentage of homeowners since at least 2006.
Rates among minorities continue to trail the nationwide numbers. Black homeownership is at 43.1 percent; the Hispanic rate is 46.3 percent.
Vacancy rates at rental properties fell to 8.8 percent — their lowest level in a decade. Rents, which are at a median $721, are at a post-recession high.
The median sales prices for vacant units — a number that spiked in 2007 but has slipped steadily since — is $133,700.