Best in 2 years but still 3rd worst nationally – Orange County Register

Better but still bad: Homeownership in Los Angeles and Orange counties started 2017 at a 2-year high but still ranks among the nation’s worst.

In the L.A.-O.C. region, ownership hit 50.1 percent in the first quarter, the third worst share in the U.S. Census Bureau’s quarterly tally of households living in a home they own in 75 large U.S. metro areas. L.A.-O.C. ranked last in ownership in all four quarters of 2016. However, the region’s latest result is an improvement compared with 48.4 percent in the fourth quarter and 49 percent a year ago.

Homeownership is on the rise across much of California as the rate hit 55.1 percent in the first quarter, highest since 2011’s second quarter. Nationally, the state was fourth lowest behind the District of Columbia, New York and Nevada.

The regional ownership gains can be tied to a strong job market creating numerous jobs paying homebuying wages. The same buying spree, and limited options for house hunters, pushes up prices and limits affordability. Thus, the continued poor national comparisons.

Nationally, homeownership has been loosely stable in the past year, coming in at 63.6 percent for the first quarter. Current U.S. ownership is near cyclical lows seen in 1994 and 1985.

Regional homeownership was a mixed picture.

In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, ownership fell to 61 percent in the first quarter, 27th worst share in the census regional rankings — poorest showing since 2015’s second quarter. The Inland Empire’s dip was from 64.4 percent in the fourth quarter and 62.3 percent a year ago.

Local changes in ownership levels may be tied to apartment availability. Census data shows L.A.-O.C. with just 3.6 percent empty rentals in the first quarter — sixth lowest vacancy rate among major metros nationally — vs. 6.7 percent in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Are local ownership levels being impacted by the IE’s larger apartment choices and rents, which are running roughly one-third…

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