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Coronavirus Pandemic

Survey provides pre-pandemic insights on home accessibility

women in wheelchair leaving a building

According to the new 2019 American Housing Survey (AHS) released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of American renter households spending 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs held steady at 51 percent between 2017 and 2019.

The 2019 AHS offers the most comprehensive picture of the nation’s housing inventory pre-pandemic. As researchers try to understand more current data on the state of housing from multiple data sources, the new survey informs our understanding of how the current housing challenges relate to the housing challenges pre-pandemic.

The survey also included questions on food security, marking the second time in four years this type of data was collected and making it possible to track changes in food security. For instance, about 85 percent of households indicated they had high food security in 2019 compared to 82 percent in 2015.

“The new American Housing Survey data show clear improvements in food security between 2015 and 2019. Our hope is that the new 2019 American Housing Survey food security estimates can serve as a baseline for which to assess how American households are currently coping with the economic impacts of COVID-related job losses, which interrupted a historic period of economic growth and opportunity,” said Seth Appleton, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.

The survey also provides detailed information on the accessibility of housing for persons with disabilities. Of the 126 million households in America, nearly 16 million include at least one person who uses a wheelchair, walker, or other mobility devices. For the nearly 16 million households with at least one member using a mobility device, nearly 56 percent report their current home layout meets their accessibility needs “very well,” while more than 4 percent reported their home did not meet their accessibility needs. More than 4.2 million households reported at least one member had difficulty entering the home or apartment building and 3.2 million households reported at least one member had difficulty using the kitchen.

The 2019 American Housing Survey data show that nearly 3.5 million homeowners plan to make home improvements to improve the accessibility of their homes.

“As the population grows older, it is important to address their needs, including home modifications to improve accessibility. This new American Housing Survey data reveal that millions of households may benefit from accessibility improvements,” says Appleton, who also notes that home modifications are an activity frequently undertaken by local governments using HUD grant funds.

The American Housing Survey is funded by HUD and data is collected every other year by the Census Bureau. The American Housing Survey is the most comprehensive housing survey in the United States, covering topics such as housing quality, housing costs, home improvements and neighborhood characteristics. Today’s release includes summary tables for the nation, for the 15 largest metropolitan areas, 9 states, and 10 additional large metropolitan areas. The microdata records will be released at the end of September.

Below are highlights from the 2019 national level findings among the 124.1 million occupied housing units.

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