Talk about a steady uptick. For the past 10 years, the American homeownership rate has inched upward each year, finally hitting 69 percent in 2004—a full five percentage points in a decade.

To some, it's proof of the American dream becoming a reality for an increasing number of people. After all, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), single women represented 18 percent of home buyers in 2004, making them a powerful force in the real estate market. Minorities, who represented nearly 25 percent of the home-buying market in 2003 (also according to NAR), have also joined the home-buying club, albeit at lower rates than their non-minority counterparts.

To others, a 69 percent home-ownership rate is a warning sign of troubles ahead for American families. Not everyone is financially stable enough to own a home, housing leaders suggest, and policies that favor homeownership over renting may do more harm than good. (For more on this topic, see “Pushing Back” by the NMHC's Doug Bibby on p. 35.)

Still, that figure will probably continue rising, although more slowly, in the years to come. “If nothing else, there are demographics at work that should push up the homeownership rate,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, who forecasts a 72 percent homeownership rate by 2015. The key factor? Aging boomers, of course, who have begun entering the peak home-owning stage of 55 to 75 years of age.