While U.S. homeownership rates have been rising since 2015 and received an extra boost during the post-pandemic housing boom, they remain below the levels reached during the housing boom of the mid-2000s. With the national trends reflecting fundamental drivers of home owners, local markets often tell different and unique stories.
NAHB’s analysis of the 2021 five-year American Community Survey county-level data reveals substantial variation in homeownership rates across U.S. counties, ranging from less than 25% in urban counties of New York to over 90% in exurban counties of Denver and in the South.
Factors impacting homeownership rates include both geography and population density, with high-cost-of-living coastal areas registering some of the lowest homeownership rates. Within California, for example, homeownership rates in coastal Monterey and Santa Barbara are below 53%. At the same time, homeownership rates in the High Sierra counties of California approach or exceed 80% (Alpine, Calaveras, Sierra, Amador, El Dorado).
Population density also helps explain substantial variation in homeownership rates across counties. Urban high-density counties register some of the lowest rates. Four core urban counties in the New York metro area appear in the bottom ten homeownership rate list: Bronx (19.8%), New York County (24.7%), Kings County (30.7%) and Hudson County (32.3%). In California, the lowest homeownership rates are in San Francisco County (38.2%) and Los Angeles County (46.2%).
Counties on the top 10 list register homeownership rates in excess of 90%. The list includes four counties in the Mountain division: two in the Denver metro area – Elbert County (92.6%) and Park County (91.1%) – as well as Storey County, Nev. (96.5%), Meagher County, Mont. (92.1%).
Out of the remaining six highest homeownership rate counties, five are in the South (Terrel County, Texas, Cameron Parish, La., Powhatan County, Va., Washington County, Ala., Doddridge County, W.V.).
While the counties with highest homeownership rates are spread through out the country, the common feature is that these are all outlying, lower-density counties.
Natalia Siniavskaia, NAHB assistant vice president for housing policy research, provides more analysis in this Eye on Housing blog post.