Visit for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.

You are here

In This Section:

American Housing Survey


The AHS is a Housing Unit Survey

The AHS is a longitudinal housing unit survey that asks questions about the quality of housing in the United States. Returning to the same housing units every other year to gather data, this survey allows users the unique opportunity to analyze housing and household changes over long periods of time. In gathering information, Census Bureau interviewers visit or telephone the household occupying each housing unit in the sample. For unoccupied units, they obtain information from landlords, rental agents, or neighbors. The survey is redesigned from time to time to make sure it meets current needs and new topics are introduced for specific survey years.

Survey Design

In the past, the AHS was two surveys conducted independently of one another. The National survey was enumerated every other odd-numbered year, while the Metropolitan survey occurred in selected areas on a rotating basis. Starting in 2007, the National and Metropolitan surveys were conducted in the same time-period to reduce costs. Although they were collected simultaneously, the resulting data were not pooled to produce a single set of estimates. The national cases were used for regional- and national-level estimates, while the metropolitan cases were used for specific-area estimates.

In 2009, a supplemental sample of housing units in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Northern New Jersey, and Philadelphia were combined with the existing National sample in these areas to produce metropolitan level estimates. Only Seattle and New Orleans were stand-alone Metropolitan surveys.

Starting in 2011, there was no longer an AHS-Metropolitan Sample. Instead, a supplemental sample of housing units was drawn for selected metropolitan areas. This supplemental sample was combined with the National Sample in these areas in order to produce metropolitan estimates using the National survey. Since the 2011 AHS, the sample also now includes an oversample of assisted housing units drawn from HUD administrative records. In 2013, the supplemental sample included 25 metropolitan areas, all of which were different from the 29 metropolitan areas selected in 2011.


For an explanation of the nuances of geography concerning the 2011 American Housing Survey, see 2011 American Housing Survey Geography Overview [PDF - 617 KB].

Sample Selection and Size

Housing units participating in the AHS have been scientifically selected to represent a cross section of all housing in the nation. The same basic sample of housing units is interviewed every two years until a new sample is selected. The U.S. Census Bureau updates the sample by adding newly constructed housing units and units discovered through coverage improvement efforts.

Each housing unit in the AHS national sample is weighted and represents about 2,000 housing units in the United States. The weighting is designed to minimize sampling error and utilize independent estimates of occupied and vacant housing units. Information regarding the sample size and response rate can be found in National Report Appendix B. For metro survey methodology, see Metropolitan Report Appendix B. See Technical Documentation for Appendices.

Due to the continued pooling of the national and metropolitan samples, the 2013 sample includes approximately 167,000 housing units. Like 2011, there was no separate metropolitan area sample in 2013 and the sample still includes additional subsidized housing units selected from a sample of HUD administrative records.

Sampling Errors

The data in this report are subject to error from sampling and other causes, such as incomplete data and wrong answers. Appendix D contains a complete description of the types of errors and provides formulas for constructing confidence intervals. See Technical Documentation for Appendices.

Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau
Data Years Available: 
Mode of Collection: 
Personal interviews and telephone interviews.
Selected Content: 
Characteristics of the housing unit (e.g., age, condition, size, type of fuel); neighborhood characteristics; household composition; demographic and economic characteristics of household members; previous unit of recent movers.
Population Covered: 
Housing units in the U.S.

The AHS conducts two surveys: a national survey and a metropolitan survey. The national survey gathers information on housing throughout the country and is in the field in odd-numbered years. The 2009 metropolitan survey covers households in seven metropolitan areas. A sample of housing units was selected from the decennial survey. These are updated by a sample of addresses obtained from building permits to include housing units constructed since the sample was selected. The survey goes back to the same housing units on a regular basis, recording changes in characteristics, adding and deleting units when applicable.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

The national survey includes a sample of about 55,000 housing units. Each metropolitan survey sample includes 4,100 or more housing units.

Interpretation Issues: 

Residential housing quality and related web pages.