The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the nation's homeownership rate fell to 66% in the fourth quarter, continuing a seven-year drop from a fourth-quarter peak of 69.2% in 2004.
At the same time, U.S. home prices fell 1.3% in November from October and were 3.7% below 2010 levels, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index indicates.STORY: Home prices drop in November for third straight month
Falling homeownership — and prices — reflect the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression. And while there are signs that the housing industry's downturn may at least be nearing a bottom, the impact of the collapse will be evident for years to come, economists say.
As of November, average U.S. home prices were back to mid-2003 levels, S&P says.
"Americans are less keen on homeownership knowing now that prices can fall," says Paul Dales, economist with Capital Economics.