Census: Homeownership plunges in Clark County

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Clark County homeownership plunged from 69.2 percent in 2000 to 65.8 percent in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.

The county rate remained higher than the national average, but its decline was more dramatic than what occurred nationally.

The national rate of 65.1 percent, down from 66.2 percent, marked the most significant drop in home-ownership since the period between the 1930 census and 1940 census, said Ellen Wilson, survey statistician at the Census Bureau.

That comes as no surprise to real estate experts, who blame the subprime mortgage crisis and the recession.

“Even before the recession took hold, the foreclosure issue was becoming significant in selected markets, and Greater Portland was the first in the Northwest to experience the pain,” said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University in Pullman.

Younger workers “traditionally form the nucleus of the first-time buyer pool,” Crellin said. The economic downturn and job insecurity have deterred them from homeownership.

“Households still say they want to own but are afraid of buying before the market hits bottom,” he said.

Renters made up 34.2 percent of the county’s occupied housing units in 2010, compared with 30.8 percent in 2000.

The county’s vacant housing units, not reserved for seasonal use, inched up from about 3.5 percent in 2000 to 5 percent in 2010, a possible symptom of foreclosures during the recession. When vacant seasonal housing was factored in, the vacancy rate actually declined from 6.6 percent in 2000 to 5.6 percent in 2010.

Nationwide, the vacancy rate climbed to 11.4 percent.

“It’s usually been below 10 percent,” Wilson said. “It’s higher than in previous decades.”