Volume 6 Number 5
In this Issue
Local Partnerships Promote
Storm Windows Can Make a Difference
Land Banks Help Stabilize Properties
The Status of America's Housing
In the next issue of ResearchWorks
The Status of
With the recent release of the 2007
American Housing Survey (AHS), the
national profile of America's housing has
once more been updated and refined. This rich source
of information about the characteristics of the nation's
housing and its occupants is the largest regular
national housing sample survey in the United States.
It contains data on apartments, single-family homes,
mobile homes, vacant homes, family composition,
income, housing and neighborhood quality, housing
costs, equipment, fuels, housing unit size, and recent
movers. The data are used by professionals in nearly
every field for planning, decision making, and market
research, as well as in various types of federal, state,
and local program development.
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the AHS to obtain
up-to-date housing statistics for the Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD). National
data are collected every other year from a fixed sample
of about 50,000 homes, plus new construction each year. The survey started in 1973 and has had the
same sample since 1985, allowing readers to see how
homes and households change over time. In some
metropolitan areas, additional samples are surveyed
every 4 to 6 years to measure local conditions.
The 2007 survey estimates that America's housing stock totals 128 million housing units; 110.7 million are occupied and another 17.4 million are vacant or seasonal homes. A brief overview of what can be learned about the nation's housing from the AHS follows.
What types of homes do Americans occupy?
By global standards, homes in the United States are
relatively new. The median construction date is 1970,
meaning that half of the housing units were less than
37 years old in 2007. About one-third were built after
1980 and a few (7.6%) have met an impressive test of
durability, dating from 1919 or before.
The predominant type of home in the United States is
the single-family unit, which accounts for 75.1 percent
of the nation's homes. These single-family units come
detached, attached, or as manufactured (mobile)
homes. Multifamily units ranging in size from 2 to 50
units (or more) account for the other 25 percent.
The floor plan of the median housing unit covers 1,807
square feet. Six out of 10 homes have from 4 to 6
rooms. Three out of five have three or more bedrooms.
Virtually every unit has at least one bathroom.
Most (98%) have a complete kitchen with a sink,
refrigerator, and oven or burners. As for other, more
common amenities, 99.5 percent of occupied units
have heat and 63.5 percent are equipped with central
air conditioning; 65 percent have a garage or carport;
and 85 percent have a porch, deck, balcony, or patio.
American homes — especially owner-occupied units
— have few deficiencies, such as holes in the floors, open cracks or holes, broken plaster or peeling paint, no electrical wiring, exposed wiring, or a lack of
electrical outlets. One or more of these problems are
present in 1 out of every 10 units. Troublesome signs
of rodents exist in 6.5 percent of the homes. Nearly
62.9 percent of householders reported having no
exterior structural problems. Roofing issues (sagging,
missing material, holes) were reported by 6.3 percent.
Other difficulties encountered by small percentages of
residents included broken windows, missing bricks or
other outside wall material, and crumbling foundations.
Do Americans own or rent? There are twice as many
homeowners as renters, with a homeownership rate of
68.3 percent. Overall, the median housing cost burden
is 23 percent, but renters pay more — a median of
29.8 percent of their income compared with 20.3
percent for owners. Housing costs for renters include
contract rent, property insurance, and utilities. For
owners, these costs include mortgage (or installment
loan) payments, property insurance, real estate taxes,
fees (association, condominium, or cooperative), park
fees for manufactured (mobile) homes, land rents,
routine maintenance, and utilities.
In dollars, the median monthly housing cost is $847
per month. Median housing costs vary significantly
among regions. The South has the lowest median
monthly housing cost ($754), the Midwest has
the second lowest ($767), the Northeast has the
second highest ($948), and the West has the highest
($1,050). Owners have a median cost of $971, and for
renters it is $750.
Where do Americans live? Three-fourths of the
nation's housing units are located in central cities
(28.5%) and suburbs (47%). The rest are outside of
metropolitan statistical areas. Most homes are within
15 minutes of grocery and drug stores, and a little less
than half are located within 29 minutes of a bus stop,
train station, or subway stop. Most workers, however,
travel to work by automobile, with a median travel
time of 22 minutes and a median distance from home
to work of 11 miles.
American Housing Survey results are available at
www.huduser.org/datasets/ahs.html. An introductory
booklet created by the Census Bureau provides an
overview of housing data and explains where to find
these data. You may download the PDF version at
Making Home Affordable
The Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) are jointly offering assistance to as many as 7 to 9 million homeowners to mitigate the destructive impact of the
housing crisis on their families and communities. The Departments
recently launched MakingHomeAffordable.gov — a website
for consumers seeking information about the Making Home
Affordable loan modification and refinancing program. Visitors
to the site will find detailed information about the program and
interactive self-assessment tools they can use to determine if they
are eligible to participate, and to calculate the monthly mortgage
payment reductions they could realize under the program. HUD
Secretary Shaun Donovan describes the program as "a tremendous, coordinated effort between major government and regulatory agencies to help bring relief to America's housing market and homeowners...[and] to stop the damaging impact that declining home prices have on all Americans."