Puerto Rico Homeownership
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS Radio/Gaither International poll reviews homeownership among Puerto Ricans. Homeownership is often seen as a key indicator of security and financial stability. For many years, Puerto Rico has had one of the highest homeownership rates in the country. 

The homeownership survey conducted by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS/WOSO Radio/Gaither International in November 2010 asked 1,000 respondents if they owned or rented their homes, and compared those results to a similar survey conducted and published in November 2007. The results were astounding. 

While the poll conducted in 2007 found that 78% of Puerto Ricans owned their homes, late 2010 poll results showed that figure had dropped to 64%, a decrease of almost 15% in homeownership in only three years. 

“Back in 2007, we argued that homeownership rates on the island were very impressive, especially when compared to homeownership rates in the mainland U.S., where 69% of households owned their home in 2007 compared to Puerto Rico’s then-78% homeownership,” said Beatriz Castro, director of syndicated research for Gaither International.  Homeownership in the mainland U.S. has been on the decline since the housing bubble burst in 2006. Late 2010 statistics showed that 66% of Americans owned the house they live in, making U.S.-homeownership levels similar to those in Puerto Rico.

Can Puerto Ricans afford their own homes?

While declining homeownership rates on the U.S. mainland are best explained by the impending housing recovery, expected foreclosures and the impact of heightened security measures on the loan-application process, Puerto Rico’s situation is very different. 

The latest U.S. Census 2010 shows that Puerto Rico’s population dropped 2.2%, from 3,808,000 to 3,726,000—the first population decline registered between census counts. An estimated 500,000 people left Puerto Rico between 2000 and 2010—the largest migration in the island’s history. 

Other factors impacting home-ownership among Puerto Ricans are soaring unemployment rates and limited financing options from local banks. 

“I believe the significantly lower homeownership rates are best explained by the massive population decrease and migration to the mainland U.S.,” Gaither’s Castro said. “Also on the rise is the percentage of people who have lost their jobs or chosen to stay on the island but live with their parents or other family members due to lack of financial stability.”

In fact, one out of 10 Puerto Ricans are living in a borrowed home or sharing the household with others, while 23% are renting and 2% have other living arrangements. 

Another interesting fact revealed by the Gaither homeownership survey is that only 20% of islanders have mortgages and 44% of those polled live in homes that have already been paid off.