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Homeownership at 66.9% in 3Q, lowest rate since '99

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Homeownership remains at the lowest level in more than a decade as increased foreclosures and weak demand despite historically low interest rates continue to weigh on the housing industry. The Census Bureau said the homeownership rate for the third quarter was 66.9%, which is flat with the prior quarter and 0.7% lower than a year earlier. The rate of U.S. households that own their home peaked at about 69.2% in the fourth quarter of 2004, on the upside of bubble. Prior to the second quarter of this year, the rate had not dipped below 67% since 1999. Home ownership in the Northeast at 63.9% and the West at 61.3% continue to pull the overall rate down. As rates in the Midwest, 71.1%, and South, 69.1%, remain higher than other parts of the country despite being down from a year ago. More than 85% of housing units in the country were occupied in the third quarter while 14.4% were vacant. Fitch Ratings said Monday that the current shadow inventory of foreclosed homes will take more than three years to cull through. In late September, the Census Bureau reported sales of new single-family homes fell almost 30% in August, as demand wanes. Write to Jason Philyaw.

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