The Census Bureau released its quarterly update on residential vacancies and home ownership for Q1 which is closely watched for its update of how many Americans own versus rent. It shows that following a modest pickup in the home ownership rate in the prior two quarters, US homeowners once again posted a substantial decline, sliding from 63.8% to 63.5%, and just 0.1% higher than the 50 year low reported in Q2 2015.
And perhaps logically, while home ownership continues to stagnate, the number of renters has continued to soar. In fact, in the first quarter, the number of renter occupied houses rose by precisely double the amount, or 360,000, as the number of owner occupied houses, which was a modest increase of 180,000. This brings the total number of renter houses to 42.85 million while the number of homeowners is virtually unchanged at 74.66 million.
A stark representation of the divergence between renters and owners can be seen in the chart below. It shows that over the past decade, virtually all the housing growth has come thanks to renters while the number of homeowners hasn’t budged even a fraction and has in fact declined in absolute numbers. What is obvious is that around the time the housing bubble burst, many Americans appear to have lost faith in home ownership and decided to become renters instead.
An immediate consequence of the above is that as demand for rental units has soared, so have median asking rents, and sure enough, according to Census, in Q1 the median asking rent at the national level soared to an all time high $870.
Which brings us to the one chart showing where the “missing” runaway inflation in the US is hiding: if one shows the annual increase in asking rents, what one gets is the following stunning chart which shows that while rent inflation had been roughly in the 1-2% corridor for two decades, starting in 2013 something snapped, and rent inflation for some 43 million Americans has exploded and is currently printing at a blended four quarter average rate of just over 8%, the highest on record, and 4 times higher than Yellen’s inflationary target.
So the next time Janet Yellen laments the collapse of inflation, feel free to show her this chart which even she can easily recreate using the government’s own data (the sad reality is that rents are rising even faster than what the government reports) at the following link.