PolicyMap and Census ACS
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- Housing Tenure
PolicyMap has expanded our housing data offerings with a series of indicators that illuminate tenure, or the financial relationship between a householder and the housing unit in which they live. Tenure is often overlooked as a way of understanding housing conditions. We’ve used the 2011-2015 ACS to study tenure generally, as well as in combination with housing stock and household turnover.
Although tenure is sometimes classified into owning versus renting, homeownership as a tenure classification can function differently depending on if the homeowners have a mortgage or not. Homes owned without a mortgage are sometimes referred to as being owned “free and clear” because they are not being used as collateral for a mortgage lender. Having a mortgage is a financial arrangement that can change the relationship of a homeowner to their home and subsequently, their neighborhood. Areas with high concentrations of homes without a mortgage can indicate places where residents’ wealth is tied closely to their home, but could also indicate a lack of access to credit. Ownership without a mortgage is much more common in rural areas.
But how does the housing tenure in an area compare to the nation at large? For that, we’ve added a typology of tenure. It may seem complex, but in simple terms, it shows how housing tenure in an area compares with a typical area nationwide. In our Tenure Typology, areas with above-average percentages of one or more of the three basic classifications of tenure (owned with mortgage, owned free and clear, and rented) are highlighted on the map.
The map shows counties assigned the “type” of free-and-clear ownership throughout much of West Virginia and central Kentucky, while urban areas such as Morgantown and Pittsburgh are more typically comprised of renters. The green counties on the map are areas where the rental occupancy rate and free-and-clear ownership rate are both above average.
Tenure and Turnover
Many people who study neighborhoods look at the rate of renter occupancy in order to gauge neighborhood stability; it’s not by chance that the word “tenure” itself connotes a duration of stay. Though rental households tend to turn over at a faster rate than owner households, looking at tenure alone without considering the actual rate of household turnover can be an oversimplification. Nationwide, the average homeowner householder moved in twelve years ago, and renter three years ago.
However, many neighborhoods can be characterized by a recent change in tenure; this is especially relevant to conversations around gentrification. Both a recent influx of renters in a long-term owner area, and an increase in new owner-occupied households in a predominantly renter-occupied area can be signals of gentrification, depending on the income and racial characteristics of the area.
We’ve added three indicators to help our users explore these relationships:
The typology of tenure and household turnover shows areas where long-term and short-term owners and renters comprise an above average share of the occupancy in that area.
Tenure Differs with Housing Stock
The housing stock in an area is another important key to understanding tenure. For example, areas where single-family rental housing predominate may have more families than areas where most rental housing units are multifamily buildings; these areas may also have more small landlords and thus more issues with housing quality. Differentiating between single-family and multi-family housing structures can help clarify the density of the area in question as well.
Areas with a range of tenure and structure type like have more economic heterogeneity. The tenure and structure type diversity index shows that many of the areas with the most diversity are in cities, outside the downtown core. Check out our map of predominant tenure and housing structure type to see which combination of tenure and type is most common.