Americans who've lost their homes to foreclosure are now looking to rent, tightening up already low vacancy rates and driving up prices. Meanwhile, foreclosed homes sit empty.
"Foreclosures have helped swell the ranks of renters, according to a study released Wednesday by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. The study shows that U.S. renter households increased by nearly one million last year -- four times the pace of renter growth from 2003 to 2006 -- to 35.1 million.
Competition for rental properties has pushed up average rents to a record $775 a month, says the Harvard center. Since only about one-third of rental properties are single-family houses as opposed to apartments, it can be hard for foreclosed homeowners to find an equivalent, affordable place to rent, says William Apgar, the center's senior scholar.
And though hundreds of thousands of houses and condos have gone back to the banks that lent money on them, few of these properties are being offered to tenants because lenders don't want to be in the property-management business. So they sit vacant."