Special Report

Counties Where the Fewest People Own Their Homes

The American housing market took off during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The homeownership rate – or the share of housing units occupied by their owner – jumped by 2.6 percentage points from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2020, by far the largest increase ever recorded. By the end of 2020, there were 2.1 million more homeowners in the United States than there were a year earlier. 

The surge in home sales was fueled by several factors, including historically low mortgage rates, and, as some experts speculate, the pandemic, which led many Americans to re-evaluate where and how they live. Here is a look at the mortgage rate in America every year since 1972

Nationwide, the homeownership rate stands at 64.4%, according to the latest American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This rate varies substantially across the country, however, and in some places, homeownership is far less common than it is nationwide.

Using census data, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 50 counties with the lowest homeownership rates. Counties and county equivalents, which can include independent cities, are ranked by the share of housing units occupied by their owners. 

Among the counties on this list, homeownership rates range from about 20% to 50%. Most of the counties on this list are in the South, including 14 in Virginia alone. 

Homeownership can be expensive, and in most of the counties on this list, the typical household earns less than the national median household income of $64,994, making homeownership less affordable for larger shares of the population. Here is a look at the 20 cities where the middle class can no longer afford housing

Many of the counties on this list are located in major cities, including New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., where renting tends to be far more common than average. Other counties and county equivalents on this list are home to major colleges and universities, where significant shares of the population reside there temporarily and are more likely to rent a home than buy one. These places include Charlottesville, Virginia, home to University of Virginia, and Clarke County, Georgia, home to the University of Georgia. 

Click here to see the counties where the fewest people own their homes
Click here to read our detailed methodology

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