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Housing Vacancy Rates At Or Near Historic Lows

Steve Goode
May 13, 2022

Housing vacancy rate dips below 1% according to U.S. Census Bureau Report

Housing vacancy rates - for both owners and renters - have reached near historic lows, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

According to the survey, the homeowner vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2022 was 0.8% marking the first time in the 66-year history of the home vacancy survey that it has been that low. The previous low of 0.9% occurred in 1980 and in 2020-2021, during the pandemic

Vacancy rates for rental housing are lower than at any point during the 35-year period from 1985 until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The vacancy rate for homeowner housing is lower than at any point from 1980 until early 2020, according to the vacancy survey.

Prior to the pandemic, the quarterly homeowner vacancy rate estimate dipped to 0.9% only seven times in six years (1978, 1973, 1972, 1971, 1957, and 1956), according to the survey.

The bureau has collected the survey since 1956, as a supplement to the Current Population Survey, to provide quarterly estimates of the rental vacancy rate and the homeowner vacancy rate.

Both rental and homeowner vacancy rates decreased between 2009 and 2019 as the nation recovered from the foreclosure crisis. Housing supply then tightened further during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Comparing the most current vacancy rate estimates to the period just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shows just how tight the housing market has become during the pandemic.

The homeowner vacancy rate declined 0.6 percentage points between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2022, from 1.4% to 0.8%.

The rental vacancy rate also declined 0.6 percentage points during the same period, from 6.4% to 5.8%.

The rental vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2022 was 5.8% — higher than the historical low of 5% recorded prior to 1985.

However, it was lower than the quarterly rental vacancy rate estimate at any point during the 35-year period from 1985 through 2019, according to the survey.

The most current vacancy rate estimates reflect tightening housing market conditions over the decade from 2009 to 2019, as the nation recovered from the foreclosure crisis, the survey said.

The homeowner vacancy rate increased from 1.6% in the fourth quarter of 2000 to 2.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009 during the housing boom and foreclosure crisis. It then declined to 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States.

The rental vacancy rate also increased from 7.8% in the fourth quarter of 2000 to 10.7% in the fourth quarter of 2009, before dropping to 6.4% in the last quarter of 2019.

In both cases, tightening housing market conditions from 2009 and 2019 left vacancy rates lower in the fourth quarter of 2019 than they had been in 2000 prior to the housing boom and subsequent foreclosure crisis, the survey said.

 

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