Valley cities lag behind in homeownership. How does Modesto’s rate stack up to others?

As the Central Valley housing market finds its new normal amid rising mortgage rates, the region’s overall homeownership levels continue to lag below the national average.

According to the most recent U.S. census data, the city of Modesto homeownership rate is 56.5%. That means a little more than half the population lives in owner-occupied housing, which is less than the national rate of homeownership at 64.6%, according to census numbers from 2017 to 2021.

Still Modesto sits above the pack with a slightly higher homeownership rate than other Central Valley cities. That includes Turlock, Stanislaus County’s second-largest city, whose rate is 54.5%, according to census data.

Modesto also has a higher homeownership rate than Sacramento (50.1%), Fresno (47.6%), Stockton (51.2%) and Merced (41.9%). The city’s rate even was a smidge higher than the overall California rate of 55.5%.

Greater Stanislaus County also outpaces its neighbors in homeownership, with a higher rate than many major Central Valley counties.

A comparison of homeowner rates by county:

  • Stanislaus County: 59.5%

  • San Joaquin County: 59.1%

  • Sacramento County: 57.8%

  • Fresno County: 54.1%

  • Merced County: 51.6%

  • California: 55.5%

Some Central Valley cities have pledged to work to improve their lagging homeownership rates, including Fresno, whose mayor recently announced a program that grants $100,000 loans to help boost home buying.

Stanislaus County Planning and Community Development Director Angela Freitas said the county has some programs in place to help address the region’s lower homeownership, including down payment assistance and the year-old Housing Stanislaus Initiative. The latter bring the county’s nine cities to understand the area’s housing issues and develop a joint vision to address them.

“When you have high property values and low wages, it doesn’t make for a great market for homeownership,” Freitas said.

Officials from the City of Modesto would not comment when asked about the region’s homeownership rates.

The region’s lower-than-national average homeownership rate is largely a statewide problem, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California. The state has the second-lowest owner-occupied housing rate in the nation. Only New York state is lower, by a little, at 54.4%, according to census data.

So, which state has the highest homeownership rate across the country? West Virginia at 73.9%.

The Public Policy Institute noted that the state’s high housing prices are partially to blame for its low home buying and ownership rates. In Stanislaus County, the median home sale price for April, the most recent data available, was $455,000. Nationwide, the median for April was $436,800, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.