Census Bureau to update housing info

Census Bureau to update housing info A nationwide survey conducted by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau in 2001 found that, overall, the country's households spent a median of $658 monthly on housing costs; the respective medians for homeowners and renters were $686 and $633.

Beginning June 2, Census Bureau field representatives will visit 63,000 randomly selected housing units, asking the residents questions about utility and other housing costs to determine how these have changed. The questions are part of the biennial American Housing Survey (AHS), the most comprehensive survey of U.S. housing taken between censuses. The Census Bureau has been conducting the AHS since 1973 for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The survey will be conducted through September 2003.

"The AHS permits decision-makers across the nation to assess the extent to which families are financially burdened by housing costs, including utilities," said Susan A. Lavin, director of the Census Bureau's Denver regional office. "They use these data to identify where and for whom programs may be needed most to alleviate these situations."

The survey collects data about the size, composition and condition of the housing inventory, financial and demographic characteristics of the people who live in the housing and the livability of their neighborhoods. In addition to housing costs, other subjects about which data are collected include: the unit's square footage, the year the structure was built, plumbing facilities, type of mortgage, source of water, the frequency of equipment failures and residents' overall opinion of their neighborhood.

By law, the Census Bureau protects the confidentiality of all identifying information about survey respondents and their housing units. Local households selected in the nationwide sample receive a letter from Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon. In the letter, they are told that they will be interviewed by a field representative who carries a photo identification card. Besides visiting occupied housing units, the interviewers obtain data on unoccupied units from landlords, rental agents or neighbors.

Joint HUD-Census Bureau reports on the survey's findings for the United States and regions are issued about 10 months after the interviews are completed.

Data in the reports answer such questions as:

* Why do people move?

* How much time does it take people to travel to work, and what means of transportation do they use?

* How well is rent control working?

* How many people find it financially difficult to buy a home?

* What kinds of problems do people have in their homes and neighborhoods that affects their living environment?

* What type of fuel do people use to heat their homes?

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