The vacancy rate for homes typically occupied by the owner rose to 2.9% in the fourth quarter of 2008 from 2.8%, matching the all-time high set a year ago, the commerce Department reported Tuesday. Prior to the housing bubble bursting in 2005, the vacancy rate had never been above 2%. For rental properties, the vacancy rate rose to 10.1% from 9.9%. The homeownership rate fell to 67.5%, the lowest since 2001. In the fourth quarter, 2.2 million homes were vacant and for sale, virtually unchanged from a year earlier. The nation's housing stock increased by 2.2 million in 2008 to 130.8 million.
It had been thought that the problems in the "owner occupied" segment of the housing market would be a boost to the rental market (i.e. those that can no longer afford to own) and it has by number. The problem for those that own those rental homes is there is absolutely no pricing power due to the huge growth in vacancies.
And before the comments begin stating this chart is distorted because the number of vacancies is still substantially smaller than owner occupied units... save it. Since 2004, the number of vacant homes has increased by 4.65mm units or roughly 400,000 more than the increase in those owner occupied.