U.S. Home Ownership Rate Slides to 15-Year Low

From Fox Business

The share of privately owned U.S. homes fell to a 15-year low in the first  quarter, government data showed on Monday, suggesting that falling house prices  are discouraging Americans from being homeowners.

The home ownership rate slipped to 65.4 percent, the lowest since the first  quarter of 1997, the Commerce Department said. The rate was at 66.0 percent in  the fourth quarter.

Homeownership was lowest in the West, while higher rates were reported in the  Midwest.

House prices have dropped about 32 percent from their peak at the end of  2005, leaving millions of Americans with houses worth far less than their  mortgages and pushing many into renting.

In the first quarter, the median asking sales price for vacant homes on the  market was $133,700, the lowest since the first quarter of 2005, the Commerce  Department said. That compared with $133,800 in the fourth quarter.

The data showed the residential rental vacancy rate dropped to 8.8 percent in  the first three months of this year from 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Growing demand for rentals is boosting rents, with the median asking rent for an unoccupied property in the first quarter at $721, the highest since the first quarter of 2009. That compared with $712 in the fourth quarter.

Stronger demand for rental apartments is helping to stabilize the housing  market as builders break more ground on multifamily housing projects.  Residential construction in the first quarter grew at the fastest pace in nearly  two years and is expected to contribute to growth this year for the first time  since 2005.

The share of empty privately owned house dipped to 2.2 percent from 2.3  percent in the fourth quarter. The homeowner vacancy rate was higher in the  South, one of the regions hardest hit by foreclosures.

Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2012/04/30/us-home-ownership-rate-slides-to-15-year-low/#ixzz1tXkDzl45

Baton Rouge High renovation, addition on schedule for June finish

From the Baton Rouge Business Report

Baton Rouge High School is about 85% finished with its $58.2 million overhaul and addition, and is on schedule for a June 2 “substantial completion date.” That’s according to Earl Kern, project manager with CSRS/Garrard, which has been overseeing the two-year renovation. Though the work appears to the casual observer to be far from finished, Kern says most of it has been done. That includes tripling the size of the nearly 90-year-old building in Mid City, along Government Street, by adding more than 220,000 square feet onto the existing 111,700-square-foot structure. Among the specialty areas in the new building are a 6,800-square-foot student dining facility, two black-box theaters, a 12,000-square-foot gym and a 7,400-square-foot media center. Among the highlights in the old school building are a renovated auditorium, refurbished millwork, all new windows and all new classrooms. Kern led a media tour through parts of the buildings last week. To see a slideshow of the progress and some of the building’s features click here. —Stephanie Riegel