The homeownership society is clearly over. Even as home prices soar and value returns to real estate, the one number that just keeps falling is the nation's homeownership rate. In the first quarter of this year, it fell below 65 percent for the first time since 1995. It now stands at 64.8 percent, according to the U.S. Census, down from a high of over 69 percent at the height of the last housing boom.
"Homeownership is one of the most important paths to the middle class for families. It's how folks put down roots, build wealth put kids through college, start businesses," said Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development. "If there are people who are ready to buy a home, but who aren't getting access to credit, then we've got a problem, and that is what we are facing right now."
Donovan is looking for more swift action from lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are tackling a bill on housing finance reform this week. That bill also, Donovan stresses, includes access to more affordable rental housing.
Home sales were higher in 2013, but that was largely due to huge demand from individual and institutional investors on the low end of the market. Using all cash, they bought up swaths of single-family homes in the most distressed markets, pushing prices higher by double digits. They didn't leave much behind for regular, credit-dependent buyers.