The Mercury News

California’s homeownership rate hits 13-year high — with a catch

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Before COVID-19, you have to go back to 2010 to find a higher rate.
California’s homeownership rate hits 13-year high — with a catch<br />

Numerology” tries to find reality within various measurements of economic and real estate trends.

Buzz: California’s homeownership rate hit a 13-year high last year – if you ignore the data-challenged, pandemic-twisted 2020 result.

Source: My trusty spreadsheet reviewed annual state homeownership figures from the Census Bureau.

Fuzzy math: In 2023, 55.8% of California households lived in a home they owned – up from 55.3% in 2022. And before COVID-19, you have to go back to 2010 at 56.1% to find a higher rate.

Reality check

Asterisk No. 1: Well, 2020 was better at 55.9%, according to the Census database.

Yet the bureau’s reports largely disavow much of its nationwide ownership stats from that year due to complications in data collection tied to various coronavirus lockdowns.

Still, 2023 was clearly the second-best in 13 years.

Asterisk No. 2: Last year’s 55.8% ownership rate was second worst among the states – and far below the nation’s 65.9%.

Only New York was worse at 53.3%. No. 3 was Nevada at 61.2%, then Hawaii at 61.8%.

Highest ownership was found in West Virginia at 77%, Delaware at 75.7%, Maine and Mississippi at 75.5%. The Golden State’s economic rivals Texas was No. 44 at 63.6% and Florida was No. 32 at 67.3%.

Asterisk No. 3: It’s a meek improvement.

California ownership was only 1 percentage-point better than the 54.8% in pre-pandemic 2019. That was the 34th-best performance among the states and below the 1.7 gain nationally.

The biggest gains were found in North Dakota (4.3 points), Connecticut and Arizona at 3.9. Biggest drops New Jersey, off 2.3 points, Ohio and Utah, off 1.6 points). Texas was No. 31, up 1.2 points. Florida, No. 29, up 1.3.

Simply average

Last year’s California homeownership rate was equal to the state’s 40-year average at 55.8%.

And the nation’s 2023 rate was only 0.2 percentage points better than the 65.7% norm since 1984.

Considering how much effort is put into boosting ownership, not much progress.

It took the crazy subprime lending era (which ended badly) to create record high ownership – 60.2% in California in 2006, while the nation peaked in 2004 at 69%.

Jonathan Lansner is business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at