From the WSJ:
The housing recovery that began in 2012 has lifted the overall market but left behind a broad swath of the middle class, threatening to create a generation of permanent renters and sowing economic anxiety and frustration for millions of Americans.
Home prices rose in 83% of the nation’s 178 major real-estate markets in the second quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors. Overall prices are now just 2% below the peak reached in July 2006, according to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.
But most of the price gains, economists said, stem from a lack of fresh supply rather than a surge of buyers. The pace of new home construction remains at levels typically associated with recessions, while the homeownership rate in the second quarter was at its lowest point since the Census Bureau began tracking quarterly data in 1965 and the share of first-time home purchases remains mired near three-decade lows.
The lopsided recovery has shut out millions of aspiring homeowners who have been forced to rent because of damaged credit, swelling student loans, tough credit standards and a dearth of affordable homes, economists said.
In all, some 200,000 to 300,000 fewer U.S. households are purchasing a new home each year than would during normal market conditions, estimates Ken Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center of Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California at Berkeley.
“I don’t think we are in a normal housing market,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. “The losers are clearly the rising rental population that isn’t able to participate in this housing equity appreciation. They are missing out on [a big] source of middle-class wealth.”
While economists expected the homeownership rate to begin edging up this year, the rate fell to a 51-year low of 62.9% in the second quarter from 63.4% in the same quarter last year.
The rate could fall to 58% or lower by 2050, according to a recent prediction by housing experts Arthur Acolin of the University of Southern California, Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute and Susan Wachter of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Long-term declines could erase gains made by middle-class Americans since World War II. Owning a home provides protection against rising rents and has been a key component of retirement saving and wealth creation.
“The default savings mechanism for American households has been homeownership,” Ms. Wachter said. “Today we have historic lows for young households in terms of ownership so they’re not getting on this path.”