In 1974, the U.S. Census Bureau released the second edition of the Annual Housing Survey, the predecessor to the American Housing Survey (AHS). AHS data were collected annually from 1973-1985 and thereafter, national data were collected every two years and metropolitan data were collected on a rotating basis. The AHS provides current information on a large range of housing issues, including the physical condition of units, costs of housing, and characteristics of occupants.
The AHS is the data source for HUD’s Worst Case Housing Needs biennial report to Congress, which highlights the number of renter households at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI) who do not have housing assistance and either spend more than half of their income on housing costs, live in substandard housing, or both. The first report to Congress on worst case housing needs was published in 1989.
An example of data on housing conditions from the 1974 edition of the Annual Housing Survey focuses on plumbing facilities for renter-occupied units:
|Renter-Occupied Units||Plumbing Facilities (1,000s)||Percent of Total|
|With All Plumbing Facilities||23,687||94.6%|
|Lacking Some or All Plumbing Facilities||1,360||5.4%|
In the most recent American Housing Survey (2011), the U.S. Census Bureau continues to ask about plumbing facilities, but with greater detail:
|Renter-Occupied Units||Plumbing Facilities (1,000s*)||Percent of Total|
|With all plumbing facilities||38,019||97.9%|
|Lacking some or all plumbing facilities||797||2.1%|
|No hot piped water||94||0.2%|
|No bathtub and no shower||93||0.2%
|No flush toilet||67||0.2%|
|No exclusive use||659||1.7%|
*Multiple categories may apply to a unit.
In 2011, the AHS was distributed to a sample of 55,000 housing units. Because of this relatively small sample size, data from the AHS is primarily used to look at housing issues at the national level.
The U.S. Census Bureau initiated American Community Survey (ACS) in 2005 to collect data on the U.S. population between the dicentennial censuses. The ACS is conducted on an annual basis, surveys more than 3.5 million households, and provides social, demographic and housing data at many different levels of geography, all the way down to the census tract and census block group level.
According to a recent report by Pew Research Center, the survey data from the ACS guides the distribution of more than $416 billion in federal funds. However, the U.S. Census Bureau is considering changing or removing some of the questions in the ACS due to public concerns about privacy. The questions under review fall under four topic areas: plumbing, commuting, income, and disability. Removal of these questions would pose many challenges for researchers, advocates, and politicians alike, who rely on these data to make policy proposals and decisions about how to distribute federal, state and local housing funds.
Census officials plan to survey federal agencies, data users and survey respondents to determine the appropriateness of removing survey questions. Any changes to the ACS will be implemented by 2016.
NLIHC will mark its 40th anniversary throughout 2014, culminating in a commemorative event on Monday, November 17 in Washington, DC. Please save the date.