Problems in the housing market and a slowing economy have pushed the homeownership rate down to 67.8% -- the lowest rate since the first quarter of 2002. The Census Bureau reported that the homeownership rate declined from 68.2% in the third quarter to 67.8% in the fourth quarter. During the housing boom, the homeownership rate peaked at 69.2% (in the second quarter of 2004). The homeownership rate for blacks rose from 46.7% in the third quarter to 47.7% in the fourth quarter, while the rate for Hispanics fell below 50%, to 48.5%. The Census Bureau report also shows that a large inventory of vacant homes that weighed on real estate markets last year will continue to put downward pressure on house prices in 2008. The number of vacant single-family homes for sale rose 6.5% to 2.18 million in the fourth quarter. There were 2.1 million unsold vacant homes on the market in the fourth quarter of 2006.

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