Federal Rental Assistance: Methodology

PDf of this methodology (2pp.)

Updated December 19, 2012

Related Areas of Research

Renter Households

Data on renter households in each state are CBPP tabulations of the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).

The number of renter households includes households renting for cash rent and no cash rent, excluding households living in group quarters.  Total households is the sum of renter households and all households that own their homes, with or without a mortgage or other loan.

Monthly household income is the annual household income variable (HINCP) adjusted for inflation from the report period to calendar year 2011, divided by twelve.  The ACS includes the following income sources in the household income variable: wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and tips from all jobs; self-employment income (net income after business expenses) from non-farm or farm businesses, including proprietorships and partnerships; interest, dividends, net rental income, royalty income, or income from real estates and trusts; Social Security or Railroad Retirement; Supplemental Security Income; any public assistance or welfare payments from the state or local welfare office; retirement, survivor or disability pensions; and any other regularly received income (e.g., Veterans’ payments, unemployment compensation, child support or alimony).  

We used the ACS monthly gross rent variable (GRNTP) to estimate housing costs.  This variable includes the household’s monthly rent plus the household’s estimated average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer) and fuels (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.) if these are the responsibility of the renter.

Low-income households are those with incomes at or below 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).  CBPP determined the AMI level applicable to each household in the ACS database as follows.  Households living in Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs, using 2008 definitions) were assigned to their corresponding HUD-determined CBSA income limit for their family size. Households within non-metro areas and Puerto Rico were assigned to their average county-level income limit for their 2000 Census Public-Use Microdata Sample Area (PUMA).  Geographical relationships between PUMAs, CBSAs, and counties were generated and weighted by 2010 population estimates using the Missouri Census Data Center’s MABLE/ Geocorr12 Geographic Correspondence Engine online application version 1.1.2012.

Figures on the number of households paying more than 30 percent or 50 percent of monthly cash income for housing costs may include households receiving federal rental assistance.  ACS data do not include information on receipt of rental assistance, making it impossible to exclude such households.

Households with extremely low incomes have incomes 30 percent or less of HUD’s AMI limits (which are adjusted by household size).

A household is elderly if the head of household or spouse is 62 years or older. This is the definition generally used in federal housing programs.

A household is counted as disabled if the head of household or spouse is younger than 62 and is disabled.  The ACS uses six criteria to identify functional limitations.  Any person who meets any of the six criteria is categorized as having a disability.  For more information see the ACS 2011 Subject Definitions, available at: https://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/data_documentation/SubjectDefinitions/2011_AC SSubjectDefinitions.pdf.

Families with children include households that do not meet the definitions of "elderly" or "disabled" and have at least one member under the age of 18.  Some households categorized as "elderly" or "disabled" also have minor children.

About 11 percent of assisted households are not included in these demographic categories: households headed by a person who is younger than 62 and not disabled, with no minor children in the home.  

Non-metro Areas

HUD-Funded Rental Assisted units outside metropolitan areas: CBPP determined HUD’s public housing, multifamily and voucher-holder locations and matched them with the corresponding Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA).  For the methodology see “HUD Rental Assistance in Rural and Urban Areas,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, February 2012, http://www.cbpp.org/files/RentalAssistance-RuralFactsheetandMethodology.pdf.

Low-income renters with unaffordable costs residing in non-metro areas are households located outside Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA, 2008). 

Homeless Population 

Number of homeless people is derived from an analysis of HUD data from 2011 and earlier years by the National Alliance to End Homelessness; see "State of Homelessness in America 2012 available at: http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/the-state-of-homelessness-inamerica-2012

Federal Rental Assistance

Number of Units

Housing Choice Vouchers:  The “number of units” in each state is the average number of families assisted by public housing agencies in calendar year 2011, based on CBPP analysis of data reported by housing agencies to HUD's Voucher Management System.  The figures include the average number of families assisted by vouchers previously funded under the Section 811 program (“5-year mainstream” vouchers) in calendar year 2011.

Public housing:  The number of public housing units in each state is the number reported in HUD operating fund data available here:  http://portal.hud.gov/huddoc/2013FinalRptUnit.xlsx

Figures include temporarily vacant units, but not units reported as “not categorized” or “NA.”  For the nine public housing agencies that do not appear in the operating fund data because they receive operating funds through special formulas under their agreements with HUD as part of the Moving-to-Work demonstration, we estimated the number of units using other HUD data sources.

Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance: CBPP tabulated the number of units receiving assistance through HUD's Section 8 Project-Based programs from HUD's Multifamily Assistance and Section 8 Contracts Database, as of September 2012.  Figures include units that are temporarily unoccupied.  CBPP tabulated the number of households assisted under a Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation contract from HUD administrative data calendar year 2010. 

Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) and for People with Disabilities (Section 811: CBPP tabulated the number of units in each program from HUD's Multifamily Assistance and Section 8 Contracts Database, as of September 2012.  Figures include units that are temporarily unoccupied.

Other HUD programs includes Rental Assistance Payment (RAP), Rent Supplement, and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) programs:  CBPP tabulated the number of RAP and Rent Supplement units from HUD's Multifamily Assistance and Section 8 Contracts Database, as of September 2012.  Figures include units that are temporarily unoccupied.  The number of households assisted under HOPWA TBRA is from the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, HOPWA TBRA map 9-11-12 edition.

USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance:  These are units in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing and Section 514 Farm Labor Housing programs that are also supported by Section 521 rental assistance.  The number excludes units that either receive no rental assistance or receive rental assistance from other programs (such as Housing Choice Vouchers).  Source is the “2012 Multi-Family Housing (MFH) Annual Fair Housing Occupancy Report," U.S. Department of Agriculture, April 2012.

Total:  This is the sum of units listed for the House Choice Voucher, Public Housing, Section 8

Project-Based  Rental Assistance, Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) and for People with Disabilities (Section 811), USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance, and Other HUD programs.  This figure does not include a small number of additional units with monthly federal rental assistance under HUD’s homeless programs, and excludes all units that received one-time federal assistance or mortgage subsidies and do not have ongoing rental assistance.


Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation, Supportive Housing for Elderly and People with Disabilities (202/811), and RAP/Rent Supplement Programs:  Data on age, disability status, presence of children, and income were taken from HUD program data for 2010. 

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS:  Data on demographic characteristics were not available.  We assumed that all households receiving Tenant-Based Rental Assistance through HOPWA TBRA are disabled. 

USDA Section 521 Rental Assistance Program: Figures on elderly households are from Rural Housing Services, “RuralDevelopment Multi-Family Housing (MFH) Annual Occupancy Report, 2012,” available at: http://ruralhome.org/storage/documents/usdadocs/occupancymfh2012.pdf.  Data on other demographic characteristics were not available.

Assisted families headed by people who are elderly or have disabilities were calculated using unrounded numbers.

Figures might not add up to 100 due to rounding.


National household and homelessness statistics include all the States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. National data on Federal Rental Assisted Units include the States, District of Columbia, and the US Territories. 

"NA" could mean "not available" or "not applicable."  For example, if a state does not have any moderate rehabilitation units, the demographic characteristics categories for that program are not applicable.  Information that was not available for particular programs is listed above. 

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