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About the Survey

Purpose

The Rental Housing Finance Survey provides a current and continuous measure of financial, mortgage, and property characteristics of rental housing properties in the United States. 

The survey focuses on the financing of rental housing properties, with emphasis on new mortgages, refinanced mortgages, or similar devices such as deeds of trust or land contracts, and the characteristics of debt originations.

The 2021 RHFS included single-family residential and multifamily residential properties with at least one housing unit intended for rent. Data collection was conducted from June 2021 through November 2021. The reference period of the survey was all 12 months of 2020. Data collection was conducted in two phases. During Phase I, cases that included respondent contact information first received a letter inviting them to self-respond online using the Census Bureau Respondent Portal.  The Census Bureau Respondent Portal allows respondents to complete surveys online.  Respondents created an account or logged-in to an already existing account.  They linked to the RHFS by using the authentication code provided to them in the initial letter sent from the Census Bureau.  During Phase 2 field staff searched for property owners and managers for cases that did not include sufficient respondent contact information and conducted interviews. Additionally, field staff contacted cases that did not self-respond during Phase 1 and conducted interviews.

Type of respondents

Owners or property managers of rental properties were asked to provide responses to the survey questions.

Sponsoring agency and legal authorities

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors the survey under the authority of Title 12, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 1701z-1, 1701z-2(g), and 1701z-10a.  The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the survey under the authority of Title 13, U.S.C., Section 8.  Title 13, U.S.C., Section 9 requires that all information collected is kept strictly confidential. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data.

Historical background

The Rental Housing Finance Survey (RHFS) was first conducted in 2012. Prior to 2012, rental housing data were collected as part of the 2001 Residential Finance Survey.

The 2012 RHFS included only multifamily rental properties. The survey was conducted as an all personal visit operation. U.S. Census Bureau Field Representatives (FRs) located owners or property managers and conducted interviews using paper questionnaires.

The 2015 RHFS included single family rental properties in addition to the multifamily rental properties. The paper questionnaire was eliminated and all data were collected using an Internet-based questionnaire which allowed for a change in collection methodology. Property owners were sent a letter inviting them to self-respond to the survey. In order to mail letters to the owners, the owner information was researched online, by conducting an owner-seeker operation, and by doing a match to administrative sources before the data collection. Respondents that did not respond were followed-up by a Telephone Follow-up operation. The remaining noninterview cases were then followed-up in person by an FR.

Similar to 2015, the 2018 RHFS included both single family and multifamily rental properties with at least one housing unit intended for rent. Data collection was conducted in two phases. During Phase I, cases with contact information were first invited to self-respond through a website which accessed an online questionnaire. Also, during Phase I, field staff began searching for property owners and managers and conducting interviews for cases that did not include sufficient contact information. During Phase 2, field staff began working the cases that did not self-respond during Phase 1 while continuing work on the original Phase 1 cases that did not include sufficient contact information.  All data were collected using an Internet-based questionnaire. The 2018 RHFS was the first to use a single frame based on a subset of the 2017 American Housing Survey (AHS) sample units. The 2017 AHS was based on the redesigned 2015 AHS sample, while 2015 was based on the previous 1985 AHS sample. This may make comparisons between 2015 and 2018 estimates difficult. Please refer to this document for more information.

Primary customers and users

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) collects this data because this is the only source of information on the rental housing finance characteristics. With these data, HUD can gain a better understanding of the rental loan origination volumes, property characteristics associated with these originations, and operating cost and revenue characteristics for the rental housing stock in the United States.

National and local policy analysts, program managers, budget analysts, and Congressional staff can use the RHFS data to advise executive and legislative branches about the financial characteristics of the rental housing stock in the United States and the suitability of public policy initiatives. The data will also help analysts to determine which properties take the most advantage of various government programs, and where changes to programs might be advisable.

Academic researchers and private organizations may utilize the data to facilitate their research and projects.

The rental housing industry will be able to use the data to benchmark individual project performance against national data to help make better business decisions. Rental housing is critical to solving the nation’s affordable housing problems, and potential investors in the rental housing market will gain a better understanding of the ownership and financing structures of the industry with these data.

Periodicity

The next Rental Housing Finance Survey will be conducted in 2024. The Department of Housing and Urban Development sometimes adjusts this schedule and/or sample depending on budget constraints.

Release of results

Public use microdata and reports are released approximately 18 months after data collection ends.

Geographic detail

Estimates are available at the national level.

Data dissemination

Biannual data are released in the fall following the end of data collection and placed on the Census website.  This includes data on topics such as rental property financing, ownership patterns, origination, mortgages on properties, units and buildings on properties, units on property by bedroom count and housing for low-income families and individuals.

Release and Revision Schedule

The 2021 Rental Housing Finance Survey data is expected to be released in the fall of 2022. In the event of an unplanned data revision, a revised data notice will be placed under “Updates.” Internal Census Bureau policies are followed for notifying sponsors and primary stakeholders.

Outlook

The next Rental Housing Finance Survey data collection is scheduled to be conducted in 2024 with a reference period of all 12 months of 2023.

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