U.S. rental vacancy rate falls to lowest in decade

WASHINGTON Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:51am EDT

A ''for sale'' sign is seen outside a home in New York June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A ''for sale'' sign is seen outside a home in New York June 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The share of empty U.S. homes for rent fell to its lowest level in a decade during the second quarter, a troubling sign for many Americans whose budgets have been strained by rising rents.

The residential rental vacancy rate declined to 8.6 percent from 8.8 percent in the January-March period, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The second-quarter reading was the lowest since 2002.

The tight rental market could keep pressure on rents despite general weakness in the economy.

The average asking rent actually edged down to $716 a month in the second quarter, $5 cheaper than in the prior three-month period. Still, second quarter asking rents were about 5 percent higher than a year earlier.

Five years after the housing bubble burst, the United States is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. Home prices have fallen a third from their peaks, but many Americans cannot benefit because they cannot get a mortgage.

With credit tight, many consumers have no choice but to rent. Others who can afford to buy are also renting, because they view real estate as a lousy investment. As demand has increased, rents in some cities have jumped by double-digit percentage rates.

However, economists do not believe the rental market is tightening enough to ignite inflation pressures.

Also, stronger demand for rental apartments is seen helping to stabilize the housing market as builders break more ground on multifamily housing projects.

In a positive sign for the housing market, the homeownership rate edged up to 65.5 percent in the second quarter from 65.4 percent in the prior period, the Commerce Department said.

The homeowner vacancy rate dropped to 2.1 percent, the lowest since the first quarter of 2006, from 2.2 percent in the first quarter.

The homeownership rate peaked at 69.4 percent in 2004 at the height of a housing market boom fueled by cheap credit.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

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Comments (3)
usagadfly wrote:
Renting is still about half the cost of buying, and without the risk of losing years of gross income on top. Actually, renting should cost more than buying, but it is far, far cheaper. This means rents will go up without massive subsidies for purchased housing, which is what caused the real estate bubble in the first place.

The solution to the housing crisis is a very, very heavy (over 15% of loan value) mortgage origination tax, non-deductible, plus a program to knock down all the shoddy overpriced construction thrown up in the past 20 years and now vacant. A house is poor collateral if it is merely a device to extract tax money from some Federal agency such as FMNA or Freddie Mac. This is plain to see in all the deteriorating eyesores that are bank owned throughout the USA.

No more real estate development financial scams! No more subsidies for residential real estate development! As usual, public programs touted as aids to the common man are converted to get rich quick schemes for dishonest operators, both construction and finance.

Jul 27, 2012 12:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
NSV4 wrote:
Rents should also increase as landlords factor in the cost of ever-spiralling property taxes. As is the case with so many other aspects of life, government is the cause of, not the solution to, the increased cost of living.

Jul 27, 2012 2:36pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
krimsonpage wrote:
I proclaim this article Bovine Scatology: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/realestate/01cov.html

So who is right?

Aug 01, 2012 4:46pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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