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California homeownership among lowest in the country

The homeownership rate has remained generally steady in California over the years, but the rate is still among the lowest in the country.

The homeownership rate has taken a slight dip from 1960 to 2020 in California, decreasing from 58% to 55.3%, which is the opposite of the nationwide trend. Nationally, homeownership has increased from 62% to 67%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

As a result, California ranked second-last in the percentage of families who own homes in their respective states. California had a slightly higher homeownership rate than New York (54.1%).

Meanwhile, West Virginia (73.9%) and Maine (72.7%) had the highest homeownership rates nationwide.

The Public Policy Institute of California pointed out what it sees as a few issues leading to lower-than-average homeownership rates in California: high prices, limited housing stock, and population growth.

It points out that the median value of an owner-occupied house in California was 2.5 times more expensive than the rest of the country, citing data from the American Community Survey. Back in 1960, the state’s homes were only 1.3 times more expensive than the national average.

“Homeownership has long been a central feature of the American dream. It is the leading source of wealth for most families, and over the long run provides families with more stable and lower housing costs compared to renting,” the Public Policy Institute of California writes. “Yet – primarily because of the state’s high housing prices—homeownership is out of the reach of many Californians. Racial gaps in homeownership are large and persistent. Fast-rising home prices threaten to make homeownership further out of reach for low- and middle-income Californians.”

PPIC also notes that California ranks 48th out of 50 states in housing units per capita. It also says that the state has added 3.2 times more people than housing units in the past decade.

Additionally, a PPIC Statewide Survey found that about two-thirds of Californians say housing affordability is a big problem in the state. Nearly half (46%) say that housing costs may cause them to seriously consider moving to another state.

“Interstate migration trends show that many do leave the state because of housing costs,” PPIC wrote. “From 2010 to 2021, about 500,000 people moved from California to other states to find cheaper housing or to own rather than rent, compared to 140,000 who moved to California for those same reasons, based on Current Population Surveys.”

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