In the aftermath of a historic housing bust, rented single-family homes are on the rise in communities from coast to coast.
At least a fifth of all occupied single-family homes were rentals last year in 32 of the nation's top metropolitan regions, according to a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. That's up from seven metros in 2006.
The growth reflects changes brought by the housing boom and bust and the enduring financial hardships imposed by the recession. Millions of homeowners lost homes to foreclosure and were forced to become renters, while others delayed homeownership.
Nationwide, 18% of occupied single-family homes last year were rentals, up from nearly 15% in 2006, show data based on the American Community Survey, an annual Census Bureau survey.
The metros with the most growth in single-family rentals are those where foreclosures were most rampant.
Among them were Las Vegas, where almost 29% were rentals, up more than 10 percentage points from 2006.
Florida's Cape Coral area was more than 25%, another 10-point gain.
Stockton, Calif., was about 24% in 2006 - now it's above 32%, the highest share among the 100 metro regions in USA TODAY's study.
Metros outside the top foreclosure hot spots have also seen larger growth in single-family rentals than the national average, including Memphis, Dallas, Denver and Seattle, the data show.
In those metros, more homeowners may be turning homes into rentals to meet strong demand, says Svenja Gudell, Zillow economist.
Single-family rents in Denver were up 5.6% in August year-over-year, vs. a 1.9% national rise, Zillow data show.
"There are a lot of folks who've decided to rent homes out, vs. sell," says Kim Klapac, Colorado Springs Realtor.
City officials say they prefer rented-out homes to vacant ones, which lead to blight. In many cases, today's single-family home renter lost a home to foreclosure.
"There's a lot of good-quality renters out there," says Micah Runner, interim economic development director in Stockton. "The issue can be when the homes are owned by people outside of the area and it's harder to get them to fix stuff."
More rentals may also lead to more classroom turnover in local schools, because renters tend to move more often than owners, says Southern California research economist John Husing.
Wealth generation will also be affected, says Michael Orr, real estate expert at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
"A good slice of our owner occupants have become tenants against their will. That's not a good thing," Orr says.
Phoenix was one of the first cities targeted by institutional investors, who are spending billions turning single-family homes into rentals alongside mom-and-pop investors.
Since Phoenix home prices bottomed in 2011, they're up about 40%, according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller data. That makes it harder for owner-occupants to now buy in, Orr says.