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According to Census data released on Tuesday, the homeownership rate has risen to 64.4 percent—a ho-hum increase, statistically. Last quarter, homeownership was at 64.3 percent, and last year, it reached 63.9 percent.

The real story? First-time homebuyers. Compared to their counterparts, they’re on the lowest rung, with a homeownership rate of 36.8 percent—but that 36.8 percent is the highest it’s been in five years. (The 65-and-older group has the highest homeownership rate, still, at 78.6 percent.) They’re facing hurdles, but continuing to be a driving force in homeownership.

There have been inroads in other ways, too. The Asian American/Hawaiian/Pacific Islander homeownership rate rose to 58.2 percent, from 57.1 percent a year ago, and the Hispanic homeownership rate rose to 46.3 percent, an uptick from 46.1 percent.

Black homeownership, however, is stalling, at 41.7 percent. (A year ago, the black homeownership rate was 42 percent.) Black buyers are disproportionately facing inventory shortages, recent research shows, and without affordable options, they have limited opportunities for wealth—a cycle that’s difficult to overcome.

Meanwhile, the Midwest is hanging onto the highest homeownership rate, at 69 percent—arguably so, with affordability less of a problem relative to the rest of the U.S. Homeownership in the Northeast was 61.5 percent; in the South, 65.4 percent; and in the West, 60.2 percent.

What’s a “good” homeownership rate?

Sixty-four percent is close to the historical trend—and any dramatic increase in the rate is unrealistic, based on conditions in the housing market today. With the consistent rise in prices—and, now, mortgage rates—affordability is deteriorating, even with economic and employment gains.

By many measures, 64.4 percent is progress.

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.