The latest iteration of the annual Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) American Housing Survey (AHS) found that homes in the U.S. are continuing to grow in size and complexity even since the start of the housing collapse. 

HUD released a brief summary of the survey results late last week and the data is available on line to researchers who canaccess it using SAS.  The final report which is due shortly promises to be massive; the last survey in 2007 was 642 largely tabular pages.  HUD has conducted the survey every other year since 1973.

"This important survey provides us a clear picture of the American home and its occupants," said Dr. Raphael Bostic, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research. "The housing crisis makes clear the need for continued collection of high quality housing data to help us understand housing markets. The numbers behind this survey not only provide valuable information on the composition of our housing stock, but they also help us monitor the mortgage markets, measure worst-case housing needs, and inform our policy choices."

HUD said that the New Orleans survey, which was previously conducted in 2004, would be particularly helpful in providing an in-depth progress report of the city's redevelopment since the 2005 hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

Respondents were asked dozens of questions about their residential situation including the length of their commute, how their homes are financed, their satisfaction with the home's environment, and information about the size, condition, and amenities of the homes themselves.  For the first time the survey includes data on the disability status of household members.

Here are some of the preliminary findings.

  • There are 130,112 million residential housing units in the U.S. and 86 percent of those are occupied; 68 percent are owner-occupied.
  • 51 percent are located in suburban areas; 29 percent in central cities; and 20 percent outside metropolitan areas. 18 percent are located in the Northeast; 23 percent in the Midwest; 37 percent in the South; and 22 percent in the West.
  • The median size of an occupied home is 1,800 square feet (compared to 1,610 in 1985, the earliest year this piece of information was collected), with owner-occupied units being larger than renter-occupied ones. Newer Homes are also usually larger, with a median size of 2,300 square feet. Even those homes newly constructed since the 2007 AHS are generally larger, more expensive, have more bedrooms and bathrooms, and are more likely to include amenities such as central air conditioning.
  • While houses are growing, their yards are shrinking. Median lot size for single-family homes, including mobile homes, is 0.27 acres (compared to .36 acres in 1973) with owner-occupied units generally sitting on more land than renter-occupied ones.
  • 53 percent of homes contain at least six rooms compared to 48 percent in 1973. 65 percent of newly constructed homes have six rooms or more.
  • Three bedrooms are becoming more and more common; 65 percent of homes have at least three as do 80 percent of new homes. In 1973 slightly less than half of homes had three bedrooms or more.
  • More than half of homes (51 percent) have two or more bathrooms compared to just 19 percent in 1973. New units have more bathrooms; 89 percent of them have two or more. Virtually all homes have complete plumbing facilities.
  • About half (48 percent) have a separate dining room and three in ten units (30 percent) report two or more living rooms or recreation rooms. 35 percent have a functioning fireplace.
  • All homes have a refrigerator and kitchen sink and 99 percent have a cooking stove or range. Overall 98 percent of units have a full kitchen.
  • 66 percent of homes are equipped with a dishwasher, 52 percent a garbage disposal, and over 80 percent have a washer, dryer, or both, but only 3 percent have a trash compactor.
  • Most homes have some air conditioning; 65 percent have central air and another 21 percent use window units. 89 percent of new homes have central air. This is a quantum increase from 1973 when only 17 percent of homes were centrally air conditioned although 30 percent had window units.
  • While the major source of heat in American homes is piped gas (51 percent) and 34 percent, including most new homes, used electricity, the numbers reverse when it comes to cooking. 60 percent have electric stoves while 35 percent cook with gas.
  • More than eight in ten units (88 percent) receive water from a public system or private company, and the remaining units received water from wells. 80 percent of homes are on public sewer with the remainder using private facilities such as a septic tank or cesspool.
  • About half of homes are located near public transportation but only 17 percent of the people living in those homes actually use the service.
  • 60 percent of households with elementary school-aged children report that they live within one mile of an elementary school and 95 percent of homes are located close to a grocery or drug store.

The summary report did not report any of the home financing data collected in the survey.