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HUD Releases 2009 American Housing Survey

July 6, 2010

Most families with young children live within a mile of a public elementary school. The most common home heating fuel in the U.S. is gas. Only a third of American homes have a working carbon monoxide detector. These are just some of the findings of a comprehensive national sample of the more than 130 million residential housing units released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD's 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS) is the most thorough look inside the homes of millions of Americans and reveals everything from the square footage of the unit to how many homes have front porches, garages or even usable fireplaces. First conducted in 1973, the survey's long-term design allows analysts to trace the characteristics of U.S. housing units and their occupants. For example, the 2009 survey reveals that significantly more American homes are larger and have more bedrooms and bathrooms than homes 37 years ago. In addition, homes of 1973 were significantly less likely to have central air conditioning and other amenities considered commonplace today.

"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."

The 2009 AHS includes enhanced data for five metropolitan areas: Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Northern New Jersey. For the first time ever, the AHS also includes data on disability status of household members. The new AHS also includes two independent metropolitan surveys of New Orleans and Seattle. Last conducted in 2004, the New Orleans survey in particular will provide an in-depth progress report of the redevelopment of the metro area following the hurricanes of 2005.

There are 130,112,000 residential housing units in the U.S.; 86 percent of these are occupied. The median age of 'the American home' is 36 years, though the survey finds that 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. Some of the other key findings of the 2009 AHS include: 68 percent of U.S. homes are owner-occupied; 51 percent are located in suburban areas; 29 percent in central cities; and 20 percent outside metropolitan areas; and 18 percent are located in the Northeast; 23 percent in the Midwest; 37 percent in the South; and 22 percent in the West.

Unit Size

  • The median size of a home is 1,500 square feet (compared to 1,610 square feet in 1973), with owner-occupied units being larger than renter-occupied ones. Newer homes are also usually larger, with median size of 2,300 square feet.
  • 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 having more land than renter-occupied ones.
Rooms
  • Most homes (53 percent) have six or more rooms, with owner-occupied units generally having more rooms than renter-occupied ones. In 1973, only 39 percent of homes had six or more rooms.
  • Newly constructed homes generally have more rooms - 65 percent have six or more rooms.
  • Most homes have three or more bedrooms (64 percent compared to just 48 percent in 1973). New homes generally have more bedrooms - 80 percent of them have three or more bedrooms.
  • More than half of U.S. homes (51 percent) have two or more bathrooms compared to just 19 percent in 1973. Again new units have more bathrooms, with 89 percent of them having two or more bathrooms.
Equipment
  • All units have a refrigerator and kitchen sink and almost all homes (99 percent) have a cooking stove or range. Overall 98 percent of units have a full kitchen.
  • The most commonly used cooking fuel is electricity (60 percent) followed by piped gas (35 percent).
  • Two-thirds of the homes (66 percent) have a dishwasher, 51 percent have a disposal in the kitchen sink and three percent have a trash compactor. New units are more likely to have these amenities.
  • More than eight in ten homes have a washing machine (84 percent) and clothes dryer (81 percent).
  • About two-thirds of U.S. homes (65 percent) have central air-conditioning and another 21 percent have window units - new units are more likely to have central air-conditioning (89 percent). By contrast, only 17 percent of U.S. homes had central A/C in 1973 although 30 percent contained window units.
  • About nine in 10 homes (93 percent) reported a smoke detector while 36 percent reported having a working carbon monoxide detector.
Heating
  • About two-thirds of U.S. homes use warm-air furnace for heating; 12 percent use an electric heat pump; and 11 percent use steam or hot water system.
  • The most commonly used home heating fuel is piped gas (51 percent) followed by electricity (34 percent), though new units are more likely to use electricity.
Plumbing

  • Almost all units (99 percent) have complete plumbing facilities.
  • The most commonly used fuel for heating water is piped gas followed by electricity.
  • 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.
  • More than nine in ten households rated their water as being safe.
  • Eight in 10 units use the public sewage disposal system and 20 percent use a septic tank, cesspool or chemical toilet.
Amenities
  • Most homes have a telephone (98 percent), porch, deck, balcony or patio (85 percent) and a garage or carport (66 percent).
  • 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.
  • About one-third (35 percent) have a usable fireplace.
  • New construction is more likely to have all these amenities.
Neighborhood
  • 95 percent of units are located close to a grocery or drug store, and 97 percent of residents with access were satisfied with the stores near them.
  • Slightly more than half of U.S. homes (54 percent) are located near public transportation, with about seven in ten of the residents (71percent) living in these units saying that they live within a 10 minute walk to such transportation. However, just 17 percent of households living near public transportation report using it for commuting or school.
  • Most communities (90 percent) do not have secured entrances, though new construction is more likely to be in secured communities. Residents, overall, were satisfied with police protection in their communities (91 percent).
  • Most residents reported that their neighborhoods did not have vandalized buildings (88 percent), barred windows (84 percent), and trash, litter or junk (89 percent). However, 40 percent of residents said that their streets needed repairs.
  • Nearly half the households (45 percent) had access to community amenities such as a community center or clubhouse, trails, golf, daycare, shuttle bus or private beach or park area.
  • Noise from traffic was a problem reported by almost one-quarter of residents (23 percent), though fewer resident of new construction found this to be a problem (15 percent).
  • Six in 10 households with children under the age of 14 years (60 percent) said that there was a public elementary school within one mile of their homes.
  • Less than one in 10 households with someone 55 years or older (7 percent) reported living in an age-restricted community.



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