California homeownership at highest level since 2010

California’s progress toward making the state friendlier for house hunters comes in baby steps.

When my trusty spreadsheet looked at homeownership data from the Census Bureau for the states and the District of Columbia, it found an average 55.9% of California households lived in a home they owned last year.

It’s a bit of a landmark moment: The last time the owners’ share of housing had been higher was in 2010 at 56.1% – just after the Great Recession officially ended.

Now, the situation is still ugly. California has the nation’s third-lowest ownership share, just ahead of New York’s 53.3% and D.C.’s 40.2%. By the way, California rivals Texas was seventh-lowest at 63.6% and Florida was 18th lowest at 67.3%.

The tops state was West Virginia, ranking No. 1 with a 77% homeownership rate. The national rate was 65.9%.

Let’s remember that homebuying since 2019 benefitted from the Federal Reserve’s extended generosity – cheaper interest rates used as a stimulus to a coronavirus-chilled economy. Developers met some demand, too. California building permits in the last four years were one-third higher than the pace of the 2000s. Still, recent homebuilding runs one-third below the 1990-2010 average.

Plus, the ownership rate may have been boosted a bit by California’s population outflow in recent years. These exits skew toward younger, lower-income folks, a group more likely to rent than own.

It added up to California enjoying a small ownership uptick since coronavirus was added to our economics vocabulary.

California ownership rose 1 percentage point in four years – though 33 states did better. Texas ownership has risen 1.2 points since 2019. Florida was up 1.3 points.

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Nationally, ownership is up 1.4 points since 2019. The nation’s biggest leap was found in North Dakota, up 4.3 points to 65.7%.

Let’s politely say more work must be done: Yes, California ownership is at a 13-year-high, but it’s also essentially at where it was in 1993.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

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