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Homeownership rate falls again, nearing all-time low

So much for the supposed recovery

Just over two months ago, it seemed like the may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel as the homeownership rate in the United States increased for the second straight quarter, after falling to a 48-year low in the second quarter of 2015, but as it turns out, that growth may have been a mirage.

According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, the share of Americans who own their homes was 63.5% in the first quarter of 2016, down from 63.8% in the fourth quarter of 2015.

That references two straight quarters of growth, which was the first time that the homeownership rate grew in more than 2 years.

But now, after trending up, the homeownership rate is trending back down.

On a regional basis, the homeownership rate fell in three of the four regions in the U.S., with only the Midwest registering an increase.

In the Northeast region the homeownership rate fell from 61.6% in the fourth quarter to 60.4% in the first quarter.

The South also fell from 65.3% in the fourth quarter to 64.8% in the first quarter.

The West region also posted a small decrease, falling from 59% to 58.7%.

But the Midwest region saw the only increase, rising from 68.1% in the fourth quarter to 68.9% in the first quarter.

Broken out by age bracket, the homeownership rate for people under 35 continues to fall, dropping to 34.2% in the first quarter from 34.7% in the fourth quarter.

That’s the lowest that figure has been in at least six years.

Most other age brackets fell as well, with only the homeownership rate for people 55-64 increasing.

For people 35-44, the homeownership rate fell from 59.3% in the fourth quarter to 58.9% in the first quarter.

For people 45-54, the homeownership rate dropped from 70.1% in the fourth quarter to 69.2% in the first quarter.

For people 55-64, the homeownership rate increased from 75.2% in the fourth quarter to 78.7% in the first quarter.

And for people 65 and over, the homeownership rate fell from 79.3% in the fourth quarter to 78.8% in the first quarter.

But contained within those numbers is some positive news, according to Ralph McLaughlin, the chief economist at Trulia.

“Today's Census Homeownership and Vacancy Survey release provides optimism that the homeownership rate is flattening,” McLaughlin said.

“The Census' homeownership rate in the first quarter decreased slightly to 63.5% from 63.7%, but the change is not significantly different from a year ago,” he continued.

“Of particular note was the continued increase in the homeownership rate for Gen X,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin noted that households aged 35-44 increased their homeownership rate a full 0.5 points, moving to 58.9% from 58.4%.

“This is the second straight quarter of year-over-year increases,” McLaughlin said. “This is important as many Gen Xers lost their homes during the recession, so this is a cautiously optimistic sign that we may be seeing boomerang buyers coming back into homeownership. This also represents a glimmer of hope the homeownership rate for Gen Xers may continue on an upward trend in the remainder of the year.”

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