Housing prices fell in March to their lowest point since the downturn began, erasing the last little bit of recovery from the depths plumbed two years ago, according to data released Tuesday.
The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index for 20 large cities fell 0.8 percent from February, the eighth drop in a row. Prices are now down 33.1 percent from the July 2006 peak.
In what almost amounts to good news, prices in Tampa Bay were unchanged from their housing-bust lows in March, making the region the seventh "best'' performer among the 20 surveyed cities. Miami prices were up 0.3 per cent. At the bottom of the list, Charlotte, where prices dropped 2.6 per cent.
"Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S.& P. index committee.
Housing is in persistent trouble, industry analysts say, not only because so many people are blocked from the market — being unemployed, in foreclosure or trapped in homes that are worth less than the mortgage — but because even those who are solvent are opting out.
The desire to own your own home, long a bedrock of the American Dream, is fast becoming a casualty of the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression.
Even as the economy began to fitfully recover in the last year, the percentage of homeowners dropped sharply, to 66.4 percent, from a peak of 69.2 percent in 2004. The ownership rate is now back to the level of 1998, and some housing experts say it could decline to the level of the 1980s or even earlier.