The U.S. homeownership rate in the second quarter dipped slightly from its level in both the first quarter of this year and one year earlier, but at 64.1 percent the Census Bureau said it was statistically unchanged.  The rate hit a low of 62.9 in the second quarter of 2016, ending exactly 10 years of decline.

The rate was lowest in the West where it dipped quarter-over-quarter by a half-percentage pint to 59.3 Percent.  The rate in the Northeast rose 0.5 percent to 61.2 percent and it was essentially unchanged in the South and Midwest at 66.0 and 68.0 percent respectively.

Among age groups, homeownership remained highest for those over 65 years of age at 78.0 percent and lowest for those under 35 years at 36.4 percent.  Year-over-year changes in each group were negligible.

The gap in homeownership rates between white and black householders continues to grow. While the white rate gained 0.2 point over the previous year to 73.1 percent, the black rate fell a full point to 40.6 percent.  Rates for Hispanic homeownership and the "other" races categories were unchanged.

The U.S. vacancy rate for rental housing during the quarter was 6.8 percent and 1.3 percent for homeowner housing.  The rental rate was essentially unchanged from the two previous periods while the homeowner vacancy rate was 0.2 points lower than in the second quarter of last year.

Mike Fratantoni, Chief Economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association said, "The homeowner vacancy rate, at 1.3 percent, is at its lowest level since 1981. The rental vacancy rate (at 6.8 percent) also remains quite low, but has leveled out over the past few quarters. 

"Given this lack of housing inventory, household formation remains constrained, with about 1.2 million new households formed over the past year, and the majority of those new households choosing to rent. As a result, the homeownership rate has dropped a bit to 64.1 percent."

The tightening vacancy rate can be seen in the unit totals. The number of housing units in the country rose by 1.15 million year over year to 1.40 million units and the number of occupied units increased by about the same number.  That increase is divided almost exactly between owner-occupied and rental usage, at about 600,000 each.  The number of vacant units declined by 32,000.

"Looking ahead, we expect that underlying housing demand will remain strong, given that the largest cohort of millennials are now in their mid-20s," Fratantoni said.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) commented, "The number of homeowners rose in the second quarter by nearly 600,000. That's great news, as more American households can participate in housing wealth accumulation, which has been rising at a rate of $1.5 trillion a year in recent years. 

The homeownership rate fell nonetheless, as another 600,000 households became new renters. Historically the ratio has been 2-to-1 homeowners to renters in household formation. However, the housing shortage, especially at the level of moderately priced homes, has prevented many financially capable renters from owning. More home construction is needed to relieve the housing shortage and allow more Americans to participate in wealth gains associated with ownership."

The low rates continue to drive prices higher.  The median asking price for vacant rental units in the second quarter was $1,008 compared to $951 a year earlier.  The asking price for units for sale have declined slightly in recent quarters but the median in the second quarter was $208,300 compared to $196,800 in the same quarter last year.