San Francisco Bucks U.S. Trend With Homeownership Gains

Homeownership climbed in a small number of U.S. metropolitan areas last year including San Francisco; Nashville, Tennessee; and Austin, Texas, where strong job growth helped them buck the national trend.

Of 100 metropolitan areas, 17 had an increase in the “true” ownership rate, which measures the number of owner-occupied households per 100 adult residents, according to an analysis by Trulia Inc. of Census Bureau data. Even in those areas, advances were small. San Francisco had the biggest gain in 2013, rising about 0.6 percentage points from a year earlier, the property-information company said today. The Gary, Indiana, region, made up mostly of suburbs, had a similar increase.

The homeownership rate has been falling in much of the U.S. as incomes stagnate and rising prices make housing less affordable and more difficult to finance for entry-level buyers. The regions where the rate is up include strong job markets such as San Francisco and Austin, and areas with stable prices such as Albany, New York, that were spared the brunt of the nationwide foreclosure crisis, Trulia said.

“The markets that are seeing rising homeownership today had less exuberance during the housing bubble and a much milder hangover the morning after,” Jed Kolko, San Francisco-based Trulia’s chief economist, said in a telephone interview.

The true ownership rate in the U.S. fell to 30.4 percent from 30.9 percent in 2012, according to the analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The more commonly cited conventional rate -- the number of owner-occupied households divided by all households -- dropped to 63.5 percent in 2013 from 63.9 percent a year earlier, Trulia said.

Biggest Declines

Areas with the biggest declines in the true homeownership rate included Bakersfield, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; New Haven, Connecticut; Edison-New Brunswick, New Jersey; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“In places that had a worse recession, many people were still losing homes to foreclosure and going from being owners to renters,” Kolko said. “Others were stuck as renters because they couldn’t get a mortgage after losing a home to foreclosure.”

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