The U.S. home ownership rate is at the lowest level in 25 years and is widely expected to go even lower. That’s not just the result of younger Americans struggling to make ends meet to save for a down payment on a home. It is increasingly the result of middle-aged, higher income Americans choosing to rent.
Renter growth is now at the highest level in 30 years, and families or married couples ages 45–64 accounted for about twice the share of renter growth as households under age 35, according to a new study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. In addition, households in the top half of the income distribution, although generally more likely to own, contributed 43 percent of the growth in renters.
The homeownership rate is now 63.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census, down from the over 69 percent peak in 2004.
Because of that, rental apartment occupancy is now at an all-time high, and rents are rising at twice the pace of inflation. In turn, that is putting pressure on renters young and old, but not necessarily pushing them to homeownership. Higher rents mean it is more difficult to save for a down payment. More than half of U.S. residents report having had to make at least one sacrifice or tradeoff in the past three years to cover their rent or mortgage, and the highest segment of those sacrificing is renters 73%. While affordability for moderate income renters is hitting some cities and regions harder than others, an acute shortage of affordable housing for lowest-income renters is being felt everywhere….