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2015 Federal Rental Assistance Factsheets Sources and Methodology

July 7, 2015

To create the federal rental assistance factsheets for the 50 states, District of Columbia, and the U.S., CBPP relied on administrative data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to describe households that receive federal rental assistance.  Section 1 outlines the sources and methods used to create charts and figures on these programs and their recipients.  CBPP also estimated the unmet need for housing assistance among all low-income households using the American Community Survey.  Section 2 outlines the methods used to generate charts and figures related to housing need in each state.  CBPP used the most recent data available, typically from 2013 or 2014.      

Section 1: Federal Rental Assistance

Federal rental assistance encompasses USDA Rural Rental Assistance (Section 521) and the following HUD-administered programs:

  • Public Housing
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (including Moderate Rehabilitation)
  • Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202)
  • Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities (Section 811)
  • Rent Supplement
  • Rental Assistance Program
  • McKinney-Vento Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

CBPP relied on two types of data to analyze HUD-assisted programs.  We collected data on the number of households and federal funding levels for each program from public sources published by HUD, USDA, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  In addition, CBPP relied on a non-public dataset from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (available through a research agreement) to analyze demographic characteristics of households using HUD rental assistance.  HUD collects demographic information on recipients through Form 50058 and the Tenant Rental Assistance Certification System.  In instances where the number of households or the number of available units in the demographic dataset differed from publicly available sources, CBPP used the more conservative figure.

Total households using federal rental assistance: This number is the sum of all households in the federal rental programs listed above, rounded down to the nearest thousand.  In some instances, CBPP used unit counts if household counts were not available.  Unit counts represent all units in each federally assisted property, regardless of occupancy status.

CBPP used the following publicly available data sources for each program:

Share of extremely low-income households: CBPP estimated the share of extremely low-income households using the 2014 demographic dataset from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research.  CBPP relied on HUD’s definition of extremely low income for this calculation.  In 2014, HUD designated households as “extremely low income” if their income was below 30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).  To calculate the share, CBPP divided the number of extremely low-income households on HUD-assistance in each state by the total number of households in both HUD and USDA rental assistance programs.  Because detailed income data was not available for households in the USDA’s rental assistance program, we used the language “at least” to describe the share of extremely low-income households.  It is likely that many households on USDA assistance also meet HUD’s definition of extremely low income: the average income for a household receiving rural rental assistance was $10,258 in fiscal year 2014.  

Working or recently working households: CBPP estimated the share of working or recently working HUD-assisted households using the demographic dataset from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research.  We considered households to be working, recently working, or likely subject to a work requirement if the household reported wage income in 2014 or 2013; received unemployment insurance in 2014; or received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which typically requires recipients to work, in 2014.  For this calculation, CBPP relied on HUD’s definition of wage income: earnings from any job, self-employment, or military pay.  USDA does not publish detailed income statistics on households receiving rural rental assistance, making it impossible to include those households in our analysis.  For more details on how we determine work status, see “Most Rental Assistance Recipients Work, Are Elderly, or Have Disabilities.”

Households living in non-metropolitan areas: CBPP estimated the share of households in non-metropolitan areas using the location of households or properties in the three largest HUD programs, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, and Multifamily housing in 2013 and 2014.  CBPP relied on definitions of metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas established by OMB.  OMB publishes geographic boundaries for metropolitan statistical areas, defined as a core urban area with a population of 50,000 or more.  CBPP considered a household or unit to be non-metropolitan if it was located outside a metropolitan statistical area.

CBPP relied on two data sources to determine the location of HUD-assisted households.  We used HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Households 2013 to determine the location of public housing and multifamily assisted properties. This dataset contains information on each property’s core-based statistical area (CBSA), a collective term for metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas.  CBPP used a CBSA to CBSA-type crosswalk from the Missouri Census Data Center’s MABLE/ Geocorr12 Geographic Correspondence Engine version 1.1.2012 (the most current available) to identify which properties were located inside or outside a metropolitan statistical area.

CBPP used the demographic dataset from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research to determine the location of households using vouchers in 2014.  For the vast majority of households, we used latitude and longitude coordinates in the dataset to geocode each household using ArcGIS mapping software.  These households were then joined to a shapefile of metropolitan statistical areas from the U.S. Census Bureau in order to identify the share of households in metro and non-metro areas. Latitude and longitude data was not available for households using vouchers administered by Moving to Work agencies. For these households, CBPP relied on a City Name to CBSA crosswalk from the Missouri Census Data Center’s MABLE/ Geocorr12 Geographic Correspondence Engine version 1.1.2012 to identify which properties were located inside or outside a metropolitan statistical area. Voucher households that ended their participation in the program in 2014 were removed from the analysis.

Households assisted by USDA Rural Rental Assistance or by programs authorized under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act were excluded from the analysis because there is currently no detailed location data available for households in these programs.  While the majority of USDA-assisted households are located in non-metropolitan areas, some are in areas that have undergone significant population growth in recent years and now qualify as metropolitan.

Please see our factsheet and methodology on rental assistance in urban and rural areas for more information. 

Pie Chart (1) – Nearly All Households Using Federal Rental Assistance Include Children or People Who Are Elderly or Disabled: CBPP created the categories for this pie chart based on demographic characteristics of each household’s head, co-head, or spouse.  These categories do not include households that are headed by a non-disabled, non-elderly adult but have an elderly or disabled member in the home — e.g., a parent with a disabled child or a family with several generations living under one roof.  As a result, this chart undercounts the total number of elderly and disabled people using federal rental assistance.  Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Only certain federal rental assistance programs publish full demographic data on their recipients.  For this calculation, CBPP made several assumptions based on the limitations of the data.  We treated all households assisted by HOPWA or McKinney-Vento as households headed by a disabled adult.  We also treated all elderly USDA households as childless.

For all remaining households, we followed HUD’s definitions for elderly (age 62 or older) and disabled.  HUD considers a person disabled if he or she has one or more of the following:

  • a disability as defined in Section 223 of the Social Security Act
  • a physical, mental, or emotional impairment that is expected to be of long-continued and indefinite duration, substantially impedes his or her ability to live independently, and is of such a nature that such ability could be improved by more suitable housing conditions
  • a developmental disability as defined in Section 102 of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or any condition that arises from the etiologic agent for AIDS

The data for this chart comes from four different sources (see above for links to each):

  • McKinney-Vento Permanent Supportive Housing bed counts are from HUD’s Continuum of Care Housing Inventory for fiscal year 2014.
  • HOPWA household counts are from grantee performance profiles for 2012-2013.  
  • USDA Rural Rental Assistance elderly household counts are from the USDA’s fiscal year 2014 Multi-Family Fair Housing Occupancy Report.
  • Household counts and demographic characteristics for participants in Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Supportive Housing for Disabled Persons, Rental Assistance Program, and Rent Supplement program are from the demographic dataset supplied by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research for 2014.

Bar Chart (2) – What Major Types of Federal Rental Assistance Do Families Use: This chart includes households in the largest federal rental programs; it excludes a small number of households in the Rent Supplement, Rental Assistance Program, HOPWA, and McKinney-Vento programs.  See above for a list of sources used in this chart.

Federal funds for rental assistance: This figure represents the sum of federal funding for all rental assistance programs in fiscal year 2014, rounded to the nearest million.  Funding data is from the following sources:

  • Public Housing and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers funds for fiscal year 2014 are from the President’s 2016 Federal Budget Appendix, Tables 15-30, 15-31, and 15-32.
  • CBPP requested state by state funding data for Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance, Supportive Housing for the Elderly, and Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities directly from HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing. The chart includes data on fiscal year 2014 budget appropriations only; it does not include carry-over funding or fees.
  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance funds for fiscal year 2014 are from HUD’s Continuum of Care funding reports and Emergency Services Grant awards by state.  The chart includes data on permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, and safe havens activities.  A share of these dollars includes some supportive service funding. 
  • HOPWA funds are from 2013-2014 grantee performance profiles.  The chart includes funds used for housing assistance and housing development activities.
  • USDA Rural Rental Assistance funds are from the USDA’s Rural Housing program obligations report for fiscal year 2014.

Section 2: Households in Need of Rental Assistance

CBPP used the American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Sample to determine housing need in each state.  For this analysis, we focused on low-income households facing a severe housing cost burden — paying 50 percent or more of their gross monthly income in rent and utilities.  We used HUD’s definition of low income for this analysis.  HUD treats households as “low income” if their cash income is 80 percent or less of Area Median Income (AMI).  We used HUD’s 2013 AMI limits by metropolitan area and county.

Households paying more than half their income for rent: This number is based on our tabulations of the 2013 ACS, rounded to the nearest hundred.

CBPP first identified all households in the dataset that met HUD’s low-income criteria.  In order to assign households to their geographically appropriate AMI limit, CBPP reweighted the ACS sample into metropolitan statistical areas and non-metropolitan counties.  The ACS uses Public-Use Microdata Sample Areas (PUMAs) as the primary geographic unit.  PUMAs are non-overlapping areas that partition each state into areas containing about 100,000 residents; they do not correspond neatly to existing metropolitan areas or county borders. We used a crosswalk from the Missouri Census Data Center’s MABLE/ Geocorr12 Geographic Correspondence Engine version 1.1.2012 (the most current available) weighted by Census 2010 population to generate geographical relationships between PUMAs, metropolitan areas, and counties.  We then assigned a HUD income limit to each household based on their corresponding location and family size.

CBPP then used existing variables in the ACS dataset to determine whether a household paid half or more of their income for housing.  CBPP used the monthly gross rent variable (GRNTP) to estimate each household’s monthly housing costs.  This variable includes the household’s monthly rent plus 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.  We used the annual household income variable (HINCP), adjusted for inflation and divided by 12, to determine each household’s monthly income.  This variable includes the following income sources: 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).

This number may include some households receiving federal rental assistance.  The ACS data does not include information on receipt of rental assistance, making it impossible to exclude such households.

Percentage change in low-income households that pay more than half their income in rent: This figure is the percent change in severely housing cost-burdened low-income households between 2007 and 2013.  It is based on CBPP tabulations of the 2013 and 2007 ACS, described above.

Box – Households with children, elderly or disabled households, and working households: These percentages are based on CBPP tabulations of the 2013 ACS, described above. After identifying low-income, severely housing cost burdened households in the ACS, we categorized them based on whether the household was elderly or disabled, had children, or had a member that worked in the last year.  These categories are overlapping, meaning that the same household could fall into more than one category.  The denominator is the total number of low-income households paying more than 50 percent of their income in housing costs.

For this calculation, CBPP used the ACS definition of disabled.  The ACS uses six criteria to identify persons with disabilities.

Bar Chart (3) – More Low-Income Renters Are Paying Over Half Their Incomes for Housing: This chart relies on CBPP tabulations of the 2013 and 2007 ACS, described above.

Change in Public Housing funds: This number is the change in federal funding for public housing between 2010 and 2014, adjusted for inflation.  It is derived from the President’s 2012 Federal Budget Analytical Perspectives, Tables 18-32 and 18-34 and the President’s 2016 Federal Budget Appendix, Tables 15-30 and 15-32 (see above for link).  Numbers are in 2014 dollars and have been rounded to the nearest thousand.

Reduction in households using vouchers due to sequestration: This number represents the net change in households using vouchers between December 2012 and December 2014 due to sequestration.  CBPP estimated the reduction in households using monthly data from HUD’s Voucher Management System.  The estimates exclude the more than 50,000 new “tenant-protection” vouchers and veterans’ supportive housing (VASH) vouchers that HUD awarded to agencies (and that agencies then issued to families) during this period.  Tenant-protection vouchers replace public or other assisted housing that has been demolished or eliminated for other reasons; our analysis of sequestration’s impact does not include these vouchers because their issuance does not represent a gain in the number of families receiving rental assistance.  We also excluded new VASH vouchers, as Congress excluded VASH vouchers from sequestration and our intent is to isolate the effects of sequestration on local rental assistance resources. This analysis also assumes that any new VASH or TPVs are leased within three months of initial issuance.

Homeless persons: The number of homeless people living in each state, including homeless veterans and families, are from HUD’s 2014 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress.  These numbers are based on a single night census of people living in shelters or other areas not designed for human habitation.

Children in unstable housing: This is the number of school-aged children living in hotels or motels or doubled-up with other families.  Data on the number of school-age children in unstable housing are from the Education Department’s state consolidated performance reports for school year 2012-2013.  The Education Department considers a child to be living in in unstable housing if they are in shelters, transitional housing, or awaiting foster care; doubled up with other families; in hotels or motels; or in areas not designed for human habitation.