The U.S. Census Bureau was out Monday morning with its quarterly analysis of residential vacancies and homeownership, which showed little change of statistical significance in the former and a confirmation of the obvious in the latter.
The bureau said national vacancy rates in the first quarter 2009 were 10.1% for rental housing and 2.7% for homeowner housing. The rental vacancy rate was not statistically different from the first quarter 2008 rate or the rate last quarter (10.1%). For homeowner vacancies, the current rate was lower than the first quarter 2008 rate, but not statistically different from the rate last quarter (2.9% each). Still, it was nearly double the 1.5% rate posted in first quarter, 2001.
The homeownership rate was 67.3%, down from 67.8% in first-quarter 2008 but not statistically different from last quarter's rate (67.5%). Still, the number was down significantly from its peak of 69.2% set in the second and fourth quarters of 2004. Prior to the government promoted easing of standards of creditworthiness in the late 1990s, the rate had historically hovered in the 63% to 65% range.
The report also said total housing inventory increased to 130.4 million from 129.4 million in last year's first quarter, with approximately 85% of the housing units in the first quarter 2009 were occupied and 15% were vacant. The owner-occupied housing units were 57% of total housing units and renter-occupied units made up 28% of total housing units in first quarter 2009. Vacant housing units comprised 15% of total housing units, including 11% for year-round use and 4% for seasonal use. Approximately 4.15 million, or 3%, of the total units were for rent, up from 4.06 million in last year's first quarter, 2.1 million, or 2% were for sale only, down from 2.27 million in last year's quarter, and 7.5 million, or 6%, were vacant for a variety of other reasons, up from 7.5 million last year. The inventory data, is considered suspect by analysts because it is based on two-year old housing unit controls.
UB S analyst David Goldberg put out a research note stating, "We expected tosee a significant decline in for-sale and for-rent inventories, as: 1) anecdotalevidence suggested that demand is improving off better affordability; & 2) supplygrowth should have moderated given foreclosure moratoriums. Although inventorydeclined seq, it was down just ~102k units, a small fraction relative to the totalexcess, which we estimate at ~1.6mn homes."