Metropolitan Area Quarterly Residential and Business Vacancy Report

As of April 2011, HUD and the U. S. Postal Service are working out the details of an agreement to continue to make the vacancy data available. At the moment, however, there is no timeframe for when this will occur. Until an agreement is in place, the vacancy data will not be available for download. We greatly appreciate your patience.

Monitoring and addressing vacant and abandoned properties is a critical issue for ensuring the well-being of America’s communities. Vacancy data can be derived from a number of alternative sources. Absent a real-time, attribute-rich, parcel-based data system, researchers and policy-makers must rely on a number of proxy sources to better understand local and regional changes in the housing market and local economy.

This Metropolitan Area Quarterly Vacancy Report takes a regional or metropolitan perspective on residential and business vacancies using vacancy definitions and mail delivery data from the US Postal Service. In a special agreement with the US Postal Service (USPS) USPS, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) receives quarterly Address Management System (AMS) ZIP+4 extracts of addresses identified by USPS carriers as having been "vacant" or "no-stat" and aggregates this data to the census tract level for release on HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) website at http://www.huduser.org/datasets/usps.html.

USPS-derived residential and business vacancy rates are designed to complement and supplement existing census survey vacancy data from the American Community Survey (ACS), Housing Vacancy Survey (HVS) and the American Housing Survey (AHS) as well as other data sources. Several definitional, methodological, geographic, and temporal differences preclude a direct comparison between the survey-based census instruments and the USPS vacancy data derived from the universe of postal delivery points. A major advantage of the USPS data is that it is based on the universe of addresses with mail delivery. Postal delivery point residential addresses approximate census-based housing units. While individual point-in-time, postal-defined, vacancy rates may provide challenges to data users, we hope that this data, over time, will offer new insights and possible measures of change that will help guide public policy makers and business decisions.

USPS administrative data, while based on the universe of all active and possible delivery points in the U.S., is quite "messy" compared to census and survey sample data. Data collected by the USPS is designed to facilitate the delivery of mail rather than measure socio-economic or demographic change. USPS data collection methodologies are, in general, not as uniform as one would expect from national census and survey operations. In effect, we are "re-using" the USPS administrative data for a purpose it was not initially intended. As such, we encourage caution in using this data, particularly in these early stages of its use.

The USPS defines "vacant" as an urban delivery point that was active in the past, but is not currently occupied (in most cases unoccupied over 90 days) and not currently receiving delivery. An address is considered vacant if that house, apartment, office or building has not been occupied in at least 90 days. Residential and commercial vacancy data are tabulated separately. Unlike census survey data, USPS residential vacancy data does not differentiate between homeowner and rental units nor does it identify seasonal or recreational units.

The USPS definition of vacancy does not include businesses or homes that are under construction, demolished, blighted and otherwise identified by a carrier as not likely to become active for some time, or rural route addresses that have not been receiving mail for 90 days or longer. The USPS refers to these excluded addresses as "no stats". The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides the only known source of publicly available data for "no-stat" addresses. These data, like the vacancy data, are also published on a quarterly basis at the census tract level on the HUDUSER website. We have eliminated no-stat from these metropolitan statistics (except for unique cases such as New Orleans). No-stat will be more significant in areas with more rural population.


Data Description

Fields for MSA file:

CBSA: 5-digit CBSA code
METRO_NAME: CBSA Metropolitan Statistical Area Name
QUARTER: Description of quarter, ie., "June 2009"
AMS_RES: Total Count of Residential Addresses
AMS_BUS: Total Count of Business Addresses
RES_VAC: Total Count of Vacant Residential Addresses
BUS_VAC: Total Count of Vacant Business Addresses
RES_VR: Residential Vacancy Rate (RES_VAC/AMS_RES)*100
BUS_VR: Business Vacancy Rate (BUS_VAC/AMS_BUS)*100
RES_VR_CH_PQ: Residential Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Quarter
BUS_VR_CH_PQ: Business Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Quarter
RES_VR_CH_PY: Residential Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Year
BUS_VR_CH_PY:Business Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Year

Fields for Metro Division file

MDIV: 5-digit CBSA Metropolitan Division code. All MDIV codes end with a "4".
MDIV_NAME: CBSA Metropolitan Division Name
CBSA: 5-digit CBSA code
METRO_NAME: CBSA Metropolitan Statistical Area Name
QUARTER: Description of quarter, ie., "June 2009"
AMS_RES: Total Count of Residential Addresses
AMS_BUS: Total Count of Business Addresses
RES_VAC: Total Count of Vacant Residential Addresses
BUS_VAC: Total Count of Vacant Business Addresses
RES_VR: Residential Vacancy Rate calculation (RES_VAC/AMS_RES)*100
BUS_VR: Business Vacancy Rate calculation (BUS_VAC/AMS_BUS)*100
RES_VR_CH_PQ: Residential Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Quarter
BUS_VR_CH_PQ: Business Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Quarter
RES_VR_CH_PY: Residential Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Year
BUS_VR_CH_PY:Business Vacancy Rate Change from Previous Year

In addition to the total counts included in this summary report, HUD also tabulates the average number of days that addresses are vacant, the number of addresses vacant by time periods, and changes in status over the previous quarter. Metropolitan residential and business vacancy data in this report will generally include more information than the aggregations of census tract vacancy data also available from HUDUSER as this report includes USPS ZIP+4 data that could be geocoded and aggregated at the metropolitan but not the census tract level. For more information, see the data dictionary at http://www.huduser.org/datasets/usps/USPS_Data_Dictionary_07212008.pdf.



 Download MSA Data:  
 Download Metro Division Data:

Our current intention is to publish this report quarterly and to improve its content and the publication in response to feedback from the public. Please address your comments to:

Dr. Jon Sperling
HUD/Office of Policy Development & Research
202 402-5640 or jon.sperling@hud.gov

 

Related link:
HUD Aggregated USPS Administrative Data On Address Vacancies