The nation's housing stock increased by 13.3 percent in the last decade, but the growth wasn't evenly dispersed.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, the biggest jump was in owner-occupied dwellings, which increased by 18.3 percent, or a total of 10.8 million units. That far outpaced the 8.3 percent, or 2.7 million, increase in renter-occupied dwellings.

All four census regions recorded growing housing stocks. But the greatest rates of growth were in the South and West, 17.5 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively. The Midwest experienced a 10.1 percent increase in its housing stock, but the increase in the Northwest was a dismal 6.6 percent.

As of last year, the nation had a total of 115.9 million housing units, Census reports. And two-thirds of those units -- 69.8 million -- were owner-occupied.

That's a far cry from just 60 years ago, when less than half of all U.S. households were home owners. Indeed, as a result of the depression, the nation's ownership rate hit its lowest point of the past century in 1940, when only 43.6 percent of all households held title to the roofs over their heads.

Because of the post-World War II economic boom, favorable tax laws and beneficial mortgage financing such as VA mortgages for returning vets, the rate topped the 60 percent benchmark for the first time in 1960.

The majority of households in each region own their homes. But Florida's metropolitan areas lead in ownership rates among metro areas, and West Virginia leads all states. About three out of every four households in the Mountaineer State are owners.

However, renters outnumber owners in the country's four largest cities. In New York, 70 percent of the households are tenants. In Los Angeles, 61 percent rent. Renters represent 56 percent of Chicago's households and 54 percent of Houston's.

There also are more renters than owners in Washington, D.C., where the rental inventory decreased 3.5 percent from 1990 to 2000.

About four out of five married-couple families owned their homes in 2000. Empty nesters and other married couples without children under 18 were more likely (84.8 percent) than married couples with children (76.9 percent) to own their homes.

More than half (55.4 percent) of families maintained by men without spouses present were owners, compared with about half (49.6 percent) of families maintained by women without spouses. At the same time, women who lived alone were more likely than lone male householders to be owners, 56 percent 47 percent.

Only about 18 percent of young householders under 25 were homeowners. But the percentage climbs to a whopping 81 percent for householders 65 to 74 years old.

The full report, entitled, "Housing Characteristics: 2000," can be obtained as a PDF file by pressing here.

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