The percentage of people renting a place to live went up far more in Kentucky than those buying a home between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data.
The downturn in jobs during the recession and tighter credit were key reasons, several real estate agents said.
Statewide, the percentage of people renting their residence was 16 percent higher than in 2000, while the percentage of owner-occupied housing was up just 5 percent.
There also was a 29.3 percent increase in the number of vacant residential units across the state.
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That number includes homes in foreclosure — another reflection of the difficult economic times.
Several real estate agents said they've seen a growth in renting because it's harder for many people to get loans to buy houses under tightened credit practices put in place after the housing market faltered.
"You're seeing a shift in the market," said Tony Clark, president of the Kentucky Association of Realtors.
Banks are not lending as they once did, Clark said.
Jonah Mitchell, a real estate agent in Jessamine County, said there has been strong demand for houses to lease.
"It's a consequence of the distressed market," he said.
Many of the homes built on speculation in Central Kentucky before the market went sour are now rented, real estate agents in several counties said.
The information on home-occupancy characteristics was included in data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, providing a statistical snapshot of conditions at the time the information was collected in 2010.
Local totals may have changed since.
The increase in owner-occupied homes was much larger in several counties in the area bounded by Lexington, Louisville and Northern Kentucky than the statewide figure of 5 percent.
Jobs are more plentiful in that so-called Golden Triangle than in many other parts of the state. There have been significant population increases in many of those counties.
Spencer County, a bedroom community for Louisville, had the fastest-growing population in Kentucky from 2000 to 2010 and also the biggest increase in owner-occupied housing — 47.3 percent.
The ownership increase in Scott County was next, at 46 percent.
However, several Central Kentucky counties also saw large increases in housing vacancies, the figures show.
In Scott County, for instance, there were 118 percent more vacant residential units in 2010 than a decade earlier. In Jessamine County, the increase was 116 percent, and in Clark County vacancies were up 96 percent.
"I would have to attribute it to the foreclosures," Tim Jenkins, the tax assessor in Scott County, said of the increase in housing vacancies there.
Jenkins said a report he received showed there were 59 foreclosure sales in the county in the first six months of 2009; the number rose to 71 for the same period in 2010, then fell to 54 in the first six months of this year.
The 2000 census recorded 867 vacant units in Scott County, a total that had risen to 1,895 in the 2010 count.
The tally of vacant units includes several categories, including houses for sale, apartments for rent, houses sold and apartments rented but not yet occupied, and even migrant housing.
Mark Crutcher, a real estate associate in Anderson County, said many people lost homes because they lost jobs.
"I think most of the empty houses here are pre-owned homes" that people lost, Crutcher said. "I would think it's attributed mostly to jobs."
Residential vacancies in the county were up 96 percent in 2010 over 2000.
Some people in Kentucky have probably moved in with relatives and friends and left houses sitting, observers said.
The 2010 census showed an increase in the number of larger households in the state.
The number of three- and four-person households went down, but the number of households with seven or more occupants in 2010 was more than 50 percent higher than in 2000.
The 2010 count showed many counties in Eastern and Western Kentucky had lost population as people left to find jobs, and that showed up in lower home-ownership and higher vacancy rates.
In Breathitt County, for instance, owner-occupied housing went down 10.2 percent from 2000 to 2010; vacancies went up 14.8 percent; and rentals went down 13.3 percent, according to the census figures.
The housing market in Eastern Kentucky is slow, said Tom Carew, marketing director for the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises.
"Young folks are leaving here, going elsewhere to find work," he said.
Clark, president of the Kentucky Association of Realtors, said residential real estate sales are better in some places than others, but he thinks the overall housing market is still looking for the bottom.
Residential sales in Kentucky for the first quarter of 2011 were below the same period in 2010, when a tax credit helped.
Hunt Cooper, spokesman for the association, said sales continued to lag in April and May but were better in June.
Clark said Congress should consider another tax-credit program to boost the market. Jobs will play a key role as well, he said.
"A rebound in home sales, especially for Kentucky, will depend largely on the availability of jobs and the confidence of the public in the economy," Clark said.