It is a bi-annual bonanza of data for anyone in need of facts about housing in America and how people use it.  The 2015 edition of the American Housing Survey (AHS), sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau was released late last Friday.

HUD calls the AHS "The most comprehensive survey of its kind."  It covers a variety of "core" housing topics, including the composition and quality of the nation's housing inventory, mortgages and other housing costs, and neighborhood conditions.

Information of the physical characteristics of housing are extremely detailed, covering types of housing (69,000 people live on a boat or in an RV or van while 74.65 million of us reside in single family detached units), and their amenities, (number of rooms, type of waste disposal, air conditioning and heating, source of water).  There are also data on housing conditions; (1.5 million homes are considered severely inadequate because of plumbing, wiring, or other problems) and health and safety concerns (radon, smokers, uncovered electrical outlets, the prevalence of rodents and cockroaches.)   

The survey also touches on economic, demographic and sociological information, examining household composition, cost of housing, migration patterns, neighborhood characteristics, crime, and the characteristics of mortgages.  For the first time in its 42-year history, the American Housing Survey included questions on food security status, which allowed HUD to assign households a "food security status" score. Using these categories, households were classified as having "low" or "very low" food security, which is commonly known as being "food insecure".

The latest AHS metropolitan areas survey was conducted in the summer and fall of 2015 and included a nationally-representative sample of homes, as well as a representative sample of homes in the 15 largest metropolitan areas and ten additional large metropolitan areas. The national data was released in November but now the metro area data is also available.

Some representative findings of the AHS:

  • Households living in the metros areas of Los Angeles and Miami report spending 30 percent of their monthly income on housing costs while families living in Houston, Atlanta, Detroit, and Seattle spend 21 percent.
  • 11 percent of households in the Los Angeles area report their neighborhood has a lot of serious crime while Atlanta area households reports 4.5 percent.
  • In 2015, approximately 901,000 households (12.4 percent) in the New York City metro area were experiencing food insecurity while over 100,000 families (5.4 percent) living in the Boston area were experiencing the least in the largest metro areas.

The real value of the data is the access it allows the public, not only to see but to manipulate the information.  A user can select data for one of the 25 metro areas (although some information is only available on a national basis) or to specify information for renter or owner cohorts.  The data can be selected and tables constructed in ways most useful for the viewer's purpose.

To view the results and construct custom tables and charts, visit AHS Table Creator website.