If you are having trouble imagining the extent of the housing crisis, try these census bureau numbers (as reported by U.S.A. Today):
- A record 1 in 9 U.S. homes (14 million housing units) are vacant, “a glut created by the housing boom and subsequent collapse.”
- That number does not include an estimated 4.8 million seasonal or vacation homes, most of which are occupied only part of the year. The combined vacancy rate is almost 15%. This is higher than previous recession peaks: 11% in 1991 and 9.4% in 1984.
- Homes priced at $500,000 or more are just as likely to be empty as homes that cost less than $100,000.
Now try these numbers from the real estate website Zillow (as reported by the Los Angeles Times):
- Approximately 22% of American homeowners now owe more on their property than it’s worth.
- U.S. home prices were down 14% in the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter last year.
- Those who bought their homes during the height of the bubble are in the most trouble; nearly 60% of mortgages issued in 2006 are now underwater.
A lot of personal tragedies lie behind these numbers. They also mean growing state and local government budget shortfalls with negative consequences for far more people.
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