Why is this important

A neighborhood’s residential vacancy rate is a key indicator of housing availability in the area. Lower vacancy rates can indicate a shortage of housing options, which could lead to high housing costs for the limited number of available units. High housing costs are important driver of housing unaffordability, insecurity, and displacement, all of which impact health in multiple ways. When housing costs are high, households are more likely to accept older or poorly maintained housing that contain various environmental hazards, including: mold or pests which can trigger asthma, dangerous fixtures that can lead to falls, and toxins such as lead.[i] Additionally, housing costs can affect a household’s ability to afford other necessary expenses like healthcare. Research demonstrates that low-income households that can afford their housing are able to spend nearly five times as much on healthcare and a third more on food than those severely burdened with housing costs.[ii] The health impacts of housing instability are particularly acute for children and lead to behavioral problems, educational delays, depression, low birth weight, and numerous other health conditions.[iii] [iv] [v] [vi] [vii]

How are we doing?

The American Community Survey (ACS) surveys residents on an annual basis; however, five years of aggregated data are necessary provide numbers at a census tract or neighborhood level. Here we are comparing data from the 2005-2009 and 2010-2014 ACS data sets. Between the two time periods, there was a significant decrease in the residential vacancy rate in both the CMTL area and the city as a whole – decreasing from 11% to 6.6% in the CMTL and 5.6% to 3% citywide. Vacancy rates have historically been twice as high in the CMTL area than the city overall.

This decrease in residential vacancies has no doubt, been a driving factor in the significant increase in contract rent citywide. In the CMTL area, the median contract rent (the middle point of all rents paid) shows some increase but this is not statistically significant. Likewise, the percent of renter households paying 50% or more of their income to rent has not significantly increased in the CMTL area. Citywide there was a small, but significant increase in the percent of rent burdened households.

Dataset Source

American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, 2005-2009 & 2010-2014.

* The residential vacancy rate is the percentage of all residential units that are unoccupied by an owner or renter.

* Rent burdened households are renters that pay 50% or more of their household income to gross rent.

* The median contract rent is calculated for all renter households that pay cash rent and is the dollar value specified in the rental agreement (this is for units off all sizes combined).


[i] Lubell, J., Morley, R., Ashe, M., Merola, L., & Levi, J. (2011). Housing and Health: New Opportunities for Dialogue and Action. National Center for Healthy Housing. Retrieved from http://changelabsolutions.org/sites/default/files/Health%20%20Housing%2…

[ii] Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. (2013). The State of the Nation’s Housing 2013.Retrieved from http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/jchs.harvard.edu/files/son2013.pdf

[iii] Jelleyman, T. and N. Spencer. (2008). Residential Mobility in Childhood and Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

[iv]  Gilman, S. E., Kawachi, I., Fitzmaurice, G. M., & Buka S.L. (2003). Socio-economic Status, Family Disruption and Residential Stability in Childhood: Relation to Onset, Recurrence and Remission of Major Depression. Psychological Medicine, 33 (8), 1341-1355.

[v] Cohen, R., & Wardrip, K. (2009). Should I Stay or Should I go? Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children. Center for Housing Policy. Retrieved from http://www.nhc.org/media/files/HsgInstablityandMobility.pdf

[vi] Solari, C. D., & Mare, R. D. (2012). Housing Crowding Effects on Children’s Wellbeing. Social Science Research, 41(2), 464–476. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2011.09.012

[vii] Voight A, Shinn M, Nation M. (2012). The Longitudinal Effects of Residential Mobility on the Academic Achievement of Urban Elementary and Middle School Students. Educational Researcher, 41(9):385-392.