The recession may have officially ended last summer, but a new report out Monday shows continued turmoil in housing.
At 7.3 percent, the apartment vacancy rate in the Twin Cities is the highest since 2004 and jobs in housing construction fell below 8,500 -- the lowest since 1992, according to a fourth-quarter housing snapshot issued by the Minnesota Housing Partnership, a St. Paul nonprofit.
So, if renters aren't all rushing to buy homes, where are they going? More families wound up in shelters, the report said. But many others are moving back in with family or shacking up with friends to save on rent, the report suggests.
Homelessness rose in Hennepin County in the fourth quarter, with the county's shelters averaging about 260 families, according to the housing snapshot. That's 12 percent more than a year earlier, and up nearly 70 percent from 2006. Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools reported 4,700 homeless children through December, an increase of 8 percent from a year ago, according to the report.
However, the number of homeless families dipped in December, indicating that aid from last year's federal stimulus bill kicked in to help, it said.
The shack-up factor is probably masking the true number of families who have lost their homes, said Matt Eichenlaub, a housing attorney at Home Line, a Minneapolis-based tenants right organization. Renting when you have poor credit and an eviction on your record is very difficult, he said. But, mostly, people don't wind up living on the street, he said.
It's not easy moving in with family, he noted: "I like my brother but I don't think I'd want to live with him anymore."
One in five renters was behind on rent in the fourth quarter, down from 23 percent of people in the third quarter. The report concluded that decline, in the "non-luxury" segment, was "probably due to more vigorous collections efforts."
The shack-up phenomenon will likely stick around for a while. Employment isn't expected to return to its pre-recession high until the end of 2012, said state economist Tom Stinson.
The state's jobless rate is currently at 7.3 percent, below the national rate of 9.7.
"There's going to be a lot of people living with their parents and doubling up for some time," he said.
Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683