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Crunched by the housing crunch

While home prices are recovering and are back to early 2004 levels -- up nearly 14% nationally from their lows, but still down around 27% from their 2006 highs -- many Americans aren't participating in the rebound. Foreclosures, short sales, negative home equity and other maladies have prevented many from tapping into this wealth recovery.

Consider the chart above.

It shows that even as home prices stabilized from 2009 to 2011 before pushing higher, the homeownership rate collapsed as one-time owners became newfound renters. As a result, millions missed the bounce; those who lost homes as well as wealth in the housing collapse won't benefit from the rebound.

Now, they are suffering another negative consequence as rental rates push higher and new cash-investor landlords enjoy the rise in home values. Right now, rent inflation is running at nearly 3% -- up from 1% in early 2011 and more than double the overall inflation rate.

So much for the wealth effect from homeownership. But at least the stock market is up, right?