Clark County homeownership rate plunges

While it dropped in past decade, it’s still higher than state’s

By Erin Middlewood, Columbian special projects reporter

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CLARK COUNTY STATISTICS SAMPLER

Average Household size; persons per household

Largest: Town of Yacolt, 3.45.

Smallest: City of Vancouver, 2.43.

Median age

Oldest: Lewisville area, 45.3.

Youngest: Town of Yacolt, 25.0.

The American dream of homeownership has become more elusive in Clark County over the past decade, no surprise to anyone who has watched foreclosure rates here skyrocket during the Great Recession.

The homeownership rate dropped from 67.3 percent in 2000 to 65.8 percent in 2010, but remains higher than Washington’s rate of 63.9 percent, according to U.S. Census figures released today.

“That’s a pretty substantial drop,” said Scott Bailey, a regional economist for the state’s Employment Security Department. “But it’s not surprising given the national trend.”

The vacancy rate also increased slightly, from 5.1 percent a decade ago to 5.6 percent in 2010, when 9,314 units were empty. The county’s vacancy rate, however, falls below the state’s, which is 9.2 percent.

“The whole housing market — as well as the economy — has changed considerably,” said Teri Duffy, executive director of the Community Housing Resource Center in Vancouver. She predicts that the homeownership rate will continue to drop as banks tighten credit and demand higher down payments.

“Homeownership, frankly, is not for everybody,” Duffy said. “As it becomes more expensive, there are going to be fewer people choosing that option.”

The most recent 2010 census data, which began trickling out earlier this year, give other clues as to how Clark County has changed over the past decade.

In February, we learned that the county grew 23 percent between 2000 and 2010, much more slowly than the 45 percent growth of the previous decade, and that the county is slightly more racially diverse, but still 85.4 percent white.

Today’s data show Clark County is a little older, with a median age of 36.7, up from 34.2 in the last census. The county, however, remains among the most youthful in Washington; only nine other counties have lower median ages.

Yacolt is by far the youngest spot in Clark County, with a median age of 25. Battle Ground’s median age is 30. The oldest spots in the county are the Lewisville area north of Battle Ground with a median age of 45.3 and the Lake Shore area northwest of Vancouver with a median age of 44.2.

The size of the county’s households dipped almost imperceptibly from 2.69 in 2000 to 2.67 in 2010.

Households were biggest in Yacolt. An average of 3.45 persons lived in each household there, up from 2000, when it was 3.31. The city of Vancouver has the smallest average household size — 2.43, down from 2.5 in 2000.

The average family size remained unchanged at 3.15 persons per household, although the percentage of families headed by married couples slipped from 56.8 percent in 2000 to 53.6 percent in 2010. Yacolt, in rural north Clark County, and Felida, north of Vancouver, were the strongholds of married-couple families.