Publications

- February 1, 2019: Vol. 31, Number 2

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Rent or buy? Rental demand holding strong as homeownership rises with a whimper

by Paul Briggs

A decade after the housing bust, homeownership is rising slowly but remains well below prerecession highs. With a complex mix of cyclical, cultural and lifestyle forces influencing housing decisions over the past several years, a debate rages about where homeownership is headed and how U.S. households will consume housing in the years ahead.

The strong economy has driven unemployment to near 50-year lows and emboldened consumers, who have rarely been more optimistic about the economy than they have been in recent months (notwithstanding the recent stock market decline). Has this cyclical improvement been enough to reignite homeownership in the United States? The data so far indicate no and give little evidence to suggest a dramatic resurgence is afoot.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, homeownership stood at 64.4 percent in third quarter 2018. This is up from a low of 62.9 percent in second quarter 2016, but it is far off the peak of more than 69 percent r

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