U.S. Homeownership Remains At 10-Year Low

The rate of homeownership in the United States is at its lowest level in more than 10 years as the number of foreclosures continues to grow. For two straight quarters now, the rate has been 66.9 percent, down from a high of 69 percent in 2004.

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The new Congress will still be facing a troubled housing market. Foreclosures remain at record highs, and new numbers from the Census Bureau show that the nation's homeownership rate continues to sink.

NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD: The homeownership rate in the U.S. has fallen to 66.9 percent. The last time the rate was lower than that was in 1999. That's not really a big surprise. During the housing bubble, the rate had risen as high as 69 percent. But that was back when people were buying homes with pretty crazy adjustable mortgages that they couldn't afford.

Bruce Marks heads up the homeownership advocacy group, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

Mr. BRUCE MARKS (Director, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America): What it shows is that over the last 10 years, that it was not true homeownership. It was a homeownership deception scheme that put billions of dollars in the pockets of Wall Street executives and the banks.

ARNOLD: But right now, economists say the country is still facing upwards of four or five million more foreclosures. Many homeowners have lost their jobs or are working fewer hours.

Mr. MARKS: By having so many foreclosures on the horizon, we're going to overcorrect, and the market will go even lower than it would normally go, prices will just do a downward spiral, and we won't have a functioning market out there.

ARNOLD: So Marks and some prominent economists are hoping that lawmakers can come up with some bolder programs than we've seen so far to lower homeowners' interest rates and prevent more foreclosures.

Chris Arnold, NPR News.

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