About 18.9 million homes in the U.S. stood empty during the second quarter as surging foreclosures helped push homeownership to its lowest level in a decade.

The number of vacant properties, including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes, rose from 18.6 million in the year-earlier quarter, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The ownership rate, meaning households that own their own residence, was 66.9%, the lowest since 1999.

The share of homes empty and for sale, known as the vacancy rate, was 2.5%, matching the year-earlier period and down from 2.6% in the first quarter, the Census Bureau said.

Foreclosures are included in a part of the bureau's report that also tracks vacant properties under renovation or tied up in legal proceedings.

There were 3.7 million such empty homes in the second quarter, up from 3.5 million the year earlier, the report said.

Foreclosures could also be counted as vacant properties for sale or rent, or as owner-occupied homes if lenders have not yet evicted the previous owners, the bureau said.

Some 2 million empty homes were for sale in the second quarter, up from 1.9 million a year earlier.

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