The number of Americans who own homes fell in the second quarter of the year to the lowest level since 1999, said a government survey released Tuesday.And renting is becoming more popular:
The Census Bureau said the home ownership rate fell to 66.9% in the second quarter of 2010, down half a percentage point from the previous year. The home ownership rate was 67.1% in the first quarter of the year.
With homeowner markets stressed, it appears renting has become more appealing than owning. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of renter households rose nearly 10% or by 3.4 million, according to a 2010 study of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The rise was most dramatic in the Midwest, where growth of renter households swung upwards by 15.4% between 2004 to 2009. The South added the biggest number of renter households with a 1.2 million increase from 2004 to 2009, the study states.
All that has made Capitol Hill rethink its definition of the American Dream. As recently as the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the mantra of homeownership was almost synonymous to civic duty, but top policymakers now say that homeownership isn't necessarily good for everyone.
In May, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan testified before a House committee that the financial crisis proved the need for a better balance between ownership and rental housing. And HUD senior official Raphael Bostic last week told the Washington Post: "In previous eras, we haven't seen people question whether homeownership was the right decision. It was just assumed that's where you want to go," Bostic said. "You're not going to hear us say that." ...
"The government shouldn't blindly encourage homeownership," says Joe Gyourko, real estate finance professor at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "If the government does anything the government should encourage people to make the right decision."