The Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancy Survey (CPS/HVS) reported the U.S. homeownership rate declined to 65.4% in the second quarter of 2021. Compared to prior reports, the data was affected less significantly by the pandemic, since in-person interviews were back in 99% of the sample area. The national homeowner vacancy rate stayed at a record low of 0.9%, while the rental vacancy rate decreased to 6.2%.
The data collection was still affected by the pandemic, although to a much less degree than previous four quarters. However, technical issues involved with data collection changes limit useful comparisons of the data since the onsets of pandemic with the prior data series. We have especially noted the last three quarters of 2020 homeownership rate data with separated dots below to denote these technical changes and encourage readers to consider these data points separately from the existing data series. Nonetheless, the first two quarters of 2021 likely return the series to a more apples-to-apples comparison with the prior history of the series.
The data collection changes during the COVID-19 pandemic period likely affected the estimates of homeownership rates, vacancy rates, and the components of housing inventory, with the exception of total housing inventory unaffected. Compared to the second quarter when all in-person interviews were replaced by telephone contact attempts, in-person interviews were gradually resumed in the third quarter of 2020. In the second quarter of 2021, 99% of in-person interviews were carried out nationwide. The overall response rate for the second quarter of 2021 was 78%, compared to 82% in January 2020 and 83% in February 2020 when the normal data collections were carried out before the pandemic.
All things considered, the CPS/HVS data collection issues make comparing the last five quarterly changes to previous quarters challenging. Looking forward, the Census Bureau is not yet certain whether in-person interviews will be allowed nationwide in the third quarter of 2021, as the delta variants surge in some areas of the country. But it looks promising as 99% of the country was open for in-person data collection in the second quarter of 2021. Nonetheless, the second quarter 65.4% homeownership rate reading signals a strong housing market in 2021.