Tag Archives: 2010 United States Census

Comments on the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey

Comments on the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey

by CalculatedRisk on 1/02/2012 

This morning Dean Baker wrote about the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership Survey: Robert Samuelson Oversells the Case for Economic Optimism (ht Joe)

[W]e are still far from making up for the overbuilding of the bubble years as indicated by the fact that the vacancy rate remains at near record levels.

(There have been some questions raised about the accuracy of the Census Department’s data, claiming that it overstates the number of housing units in the country. Those raising the issue fail to note that measures of housing starts do not include housing units that were created by conversion of commercial or industrial property, such as an old warehouse being turned into condos. The rehabilitation of dilapidated units would also not be included in housing start numbers. There were many cases of both ways of adding to the housing stock during the bubble years. Also, it is important to note that the Census data is giving the percentage of units that are vacant. The critics of this measure must show how the Census methodology would lead it to overstate the share of units that are vacant.)

First, the main criticism of the HVS is it doesn’t match the decennial Census results. The Census Bureau has acknowledged this and promised to investigate the differences. Here are some recent comments from the Census Bureau:

The most recent research has shown that the CPS/HVS and the 2010 census produced significant differences for vacancy characteristics. The rental vacancy rate from the April 2010 census was 9.2 percent, whereas the CPS/HVS reported the rental vacancy rate of 10.6 percent for the first half of 2010. The April 2010 census had a homeowner vacancy rate of 2.4 percent, while the CPS/HVS had a vacancy rate of approximately 2.6 percent for the first half of 2010. For occupied housing, the April 2010 census produced a homeownership rate of 65.1 percent, while for the first half of 2010, the CPS/HVS produced a rate of 67.0 percent.

It is important to note that the HVS is benchmarked to the decennial Census, so the most recent vintage for housing inventory was benchmarked to the 2010 Census. So clearly the Census Bureau thinks that is a better estimate of the total housing inventory.

Although the HVS is probably useful in showing the trends for the vacancy and homeownership rates, I wouldn’t rely on the absolute numbers – and I look forward to the investigation by the Census Bureau on the differences. Unfortunately this report is commonly used by analysts to estimate the excess vacant supply for housing, but – because the vacancy rates do not match the Census data (or the much larger ACS data) – it doesn’t appear to be useful for that purpose.

Here are some previous posts about some of the HVS issues by economist Tom Lawler:
• Lawler to Census on Housing Data: “Splainin” Needed Not Just on Vacancy Rate
• Census Bureau on Homeownership Rate: We’ve got “Some ‘Splainin’ to Do”
• Be careful with the Housing Vacancies and Homeownership report
• Lawler: Census 2010 and the US Homeownership Rate
• Lawler: Census 2010 Demographic Profile: Highlights, Excess Housing Supply Estimate, and Comparison to HVS
• Lawler: The “Excess Supply of Housing” War
• Lawler: Census Releases Demographic Profile of 12 States and DC: Confirms Bias of HVS
• Lawler: Census 2010 and Excess Vacant Housing Units
• Lawler: On Census Housing Stock/Household Data
• Lawler: Housing Vacancy Survey appears to massively overstate number of vacant housing units
• Lawler: US Households: Why Researchers / Analysts are “Confused”

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The American Community Survey and Total Housing Units

The American Community Survey and Total Housing Units

by CalculatedRisk on 12/14/2011 

In an earlier post – The Excess Vacant Housing Supply – I mentioned that there are serious question about the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancies and Homeownership (CPS/HVS) survey, and that it is probably not useful for estimating the excess vacant housing supply.

There is another more robust annual survey – the American Community Survey (ACS) – that is based on a sample of 3 million housing units every year. Unfortunately this data doesn’t jibe with the decennial Census data.

The table below shows the ACS estimates of total housing units taken every July 1st. In 2000, the ACS was benchmarked to the 2000 decennial Census (as of April 1st). I’ve included the total completion data for single family, multi-family, manufactured homes – and calculated the implied number of demolitions using the change in the ACS.

For most years the ACS data looks somewhat reasonable, although I’d expect the number of demolitions to have peaked in 2004 through 2006. Over the first nine years of the decade, the change in the ACS averaged about 200 thousand less than total completions – suggesting demolitions of around 200 thousand per year and that is probably reasonable.

However, in April 2010, the decennial Census showed significantly more housing units than the ACS had captured (obviously a negative 1.15 million homes weren’t demolished in early 2010!) The decennial Census data itself seems a little off since it suggests only about 645 thousand housing units were demolished during the decade (that would be very low). Most estimates are demolitions are in the 200 to 300 thousand per year range (so the ACS seemed reasonable through the first 9 year of the decade).

These discrepancies really needs to be explained before the ACS can be used for estimating the excess supply of vacant housing units. It is possible the 2000 Census under counted the total number of housing units – or the 2010 Census over counted the total. Or perhaps the completion data from the Census Bureau is low. But this shows one of the reason it is very difficult to estimate the excess vacant housing supply – an error of over 1 million units is huge.

Source Date Period Total Housing Units Change Completions, Total Calculated Demolitions
Census 4/1/2000 115,904,473
ACS 7/1/2000 3 Months 116,300,799 396,326 468,300 71,974
ACS 7/1/2001 1 Year 117,905,005 1,604,206 1,719,600 115,394
ACS 7/1/2002 1 Year 119,456,206 1,551,201 1,771,800 220,599
ACS 7/1/2003 1 Year 121,076,837 1,620,631 1,784,700 164,069
ACS 7/1/2004 1 Year 122,824,501 1,747,664 1,866,000 118,336
ACS 7/1/2005 1 Year 124,711,041 1,886,540 1,980,900 94,360
ACS 7/1/2006 1 Year 126,500,212 1,789,171 2,068,800 279,629
ACS 7/1/2007 1 Year 128,132,164 1,631,952 1,831,600 199,648
ACS 7/1/2008 1 Year 129,313,137 1,180,973 1,370,200 189,227
ACS 7/1/2009 1 Year 129,969,653 656,516 999,700 343,184
Census 4/1/2010 9 Months 131,704,730 1,735,077 584,000 -1,151,077
Decennial Census Change: 15,800,257 16,445,600 645,343

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