The U.S. Census Bureau released two
housing market briefs on Tuesday, both the results of data collected from the
American Community Survey. Rental Housing Market Condition
Measures: A Comparison of US
Metropolitan Areas, examines four
characteristics of the rental housing stock using data collected by the survey
in 2009 and 2011. Physical Characteristics of Housing looks at basic physical and
structural characteristics of the total housing inventory on the national and
metropolitan area levels using data from the same period.
The four characteristics examined in the
rental housing brief are gross rent, gross rent as a percentage of household
income, rental vacancy rates, and renter share of total households. The survey found that the national vacancy
rate declined from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 7.4 percent in 2011 and approximately
four times as many metropolitan areas experienced declines in rental vacancies as
The share of U.S. households that rent
rather than own increased from 34.1 percent in 2009 to 35.4 percent in
2011. Only 3.0 percent of the nation's
metro areas saw a decline in the share of renting households while almost a
quarter showed an increase in the percentage of renters.
The brief found that more renters
are spending a high percentage of their household income on rent. Policymakers
use gross rent (median rent plus utilities) as a percentage of income as a
measure of housing affordability, and it is often used to determine eligibility
for housing programs. The report considers renters to have high rental costs if
they spend 35 percent or more of household income on gross rent. Renters with these high costs increased
nationally from 42.5 percent in 2009 to 44.3 percent in 2011. However, average
rental rates in the United States declined from 2009 to 2011.
Nationwide, only 11 metro areas
reduced their shares of renters with high housing costs, while 62 metro areas
increased their shares. Among the 50
most populous metropolitan areas only two became more affordable for renters across
the benchmark periods, Richmond, Virginia and Buffalo, New York where the share
of renters bearing high costs declined by 3.2 percentage points and 3.0
respectively. Some of the heaviest
rental costs were borne by renters in Miami with 55.7 percent of renters
experiencing heavy rental costs. Orlando (52.9 percent); Riverside, California
(52.2 percent); and New Orleans (51.3 percent).
California led all metropolitan areas in median gross rents at $1,460 followed
by Honolulu at $1,419. The lowest median
gross rents were $502 in Wheeling, West Virginia and $536 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
"While we saw a decrease in
rental vacancy rates and pricing in some areas, the burden of rental costs on
households increased across many parts of the nation," said Arthur Cresce,
assistant division chief for housing characteristics at the Census Bureau.
"Factors such as supply and demand for rental housing and local economic
conditions play an important role in helping to explain these
The highest rental vacancy rate in
the country was Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at 40.3 percent while the lowest
vacancies were in San Jose (3.5 percent) and Milwaukee (3.5 percent. Vacancy rates increased the most in two
Virginia metro areas, Richmond which went from 7.8 percent to 13.2 percent and
Virginia Beach which increased from 6.2 to 8.5 percent. St. Louis also had a substantial increase,
from 6.5 to 7.9 percent. Despite the large share of metro
areas with declining vacancy rates, which could signal rent increases, 57 metro
areas had gross rent declines and only 23 had gross rent increases.
The metro area with the highest
share of renters was Los Angeles (50.8 percent) followed by New York (48.9
The Census Bureau brief on the
physical characteristics of housing looks at what was an average of 131.8
million housing units over the 2009 to 2011 period, assessing the types of housing
structures, age of homes, and the size of the structure as measured by number
of rooms. Only 6.0 percent of all
housing units were built in 2005 or later while homes built before 1950
accounted for 19.3 percent of the total.
Thirty-nine metro areas had a share of newer homes that exceeded 10
percent of the inventory but only Gulfport, Miss. (16.4 percent) exceeded 15
Houses built before 1950 exceeded
45.0 percent of the housing inventory in Elmira, N.Y. (49.5 percent), Scranton,
Pa. (48.8 percent), Johnstown, Pa. (47.0 percent), and Pittsfield, Mass. (46.9
Single-family detached homes constituted
81.1 million or 61.5 percent of the total nationally and were the primary type
of housing in 95 percent of the metropolitan areas. Another 7.6 million units (5.8 percent) were
classified as attached units, commonly referred to as town or row houses. Buildings with 2 to 4 units composed 10.9
million or 8.3 percent of housing units and 23.5 million units were in building
with more than four units. There are
also 8.6 million mobile homes (6.5 percent) in the inventory.
Those areas with the lowest share of
single family detached units were New York (36.3 percent), Naples, Fla. (40.0
percent) and Miami (42.3 percent). There were metro three areas where mobile
homes accounted for a quarter of more of the housing inventory: Farmington,
N.M. (32.0 percent), Yuma, Ariz. (29.0 percent) and Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
The median number of rooms within a
housing unit in the U.S. is 5.5. Sixteen
areas had a median larger than 6 rooms. Provo, Utah had the largest percentage
of homes with 9 or ore rooms (30.6 percent) followed by Logan, Utah and Idaho
Falls, both slightly over 26 percent.
Ten areas had a median number of rooms below 5.0 and Manhattan, Kansas
and Myrtle Beach had the highest percentage of units containing only one room, 11.7
and 11.6 percent respectively.