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Despite Slower Overall National Growth, Housing Stock Rapidly Expanded in the South and West from 2010 to 2020

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The total number of housing units in the United States grew by 6.7% between 2010 and 2020 — approximately half the rate of growth during the previous decade, according to 2020 Census results released today.

This slowdown in housing unit growth was not unexpected. The housing boom of the mid-2000s contributed to a rapid expansion of supply, while the housing crash and ensuing Great Recession of 2007-2008 resulted in an increase in the number of vacant units.  

Even Texas, the state that added the most housing units, showed decreases in more than half (52.4%) of its counties — reflecting the concentration of housing unit growth in larger metropolitan counties, with declines more common in smaller non-metropolitan counties.

Those issues, and the recovery that lasted well into the next decade, potentially reduced demand for new construction.

Still, some areas of the country, particularly in the South and West regions, saw rapid growth in their housing stocks over the past decade.

The decennial census does not just count people and where they live but also the number of housing units — vacant and occupied — in the United States.

This count includes most types of residential housing units such as single-family homes, townhomes, apartments and mobile homes. It also includes RVs, vans, houseboats and other nontraditional housing units when they are occupied by someone who has no other residence.

The Census Bureau’s definition of a housing unit is “a living quarter in which the occupant or occupants live separately from any other individuals in the building and have direct access to their living quarters from outside the building or a shared space such as a common hall.”

Many different structure types can be considered a housing unit, and for most it does not matter if they are currently occupied or vacant.

But there’s an exception for certain nontraditional housing units like RVs, houseboats, hotel/motels, campgrounds and vans, which are only considered housing units if currently occupied by someone who doesn’t have another residence.

 

Where Housing Units Increased, Declined

The number of housing units increased between 2010 and 2020 in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Puerto Rico (-2.4%) and West Virginia (-3.0%) were the only two areas that saw declines in the total number of housing units over the last decade.

In total, 19 states and the District of Columbia grew at rates faster than the national growth rate of 6.7%.

 

 

Washington, D.C., was the fastest growing (18.1%), followed by Utah (17.5%), North Dakota (16.7%) and Texas (16.2%).

In absolute terms, the nation’s three most populous states had the largest increase in housing units:  Texas (1,611,888), Florida (875,770) and California (712,059).

 

 

Texas saw the biggest change in absolute terms but was fourth largest by percentage growth since 2010. Many of the counties in Texas were also among the fastest growing in the country (Table 1).

The fastest-growing county however, was in North Dakota, where McKenzie was the nation’s only county to more than double its total count of housing units between the 2010 and 2020 censuses (up 147.9%).

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Growth Highest in Metro Areas

While the national number of housing units grew over the past decade, this growth was not uniform throughout the country (Figure 2). In addition to some states growing faster than others, growth rates also varied across counties in the same state.

 

 

In many states, counties in metropolitan areas grew faster than those in nonmetropolitan areas. Counties that composed some part of a metropolitan or micropolitan area, also known as Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs), showed increases that averaged 3.8%, while counties outside of CBSAs declined on average by 3.9%.

This pattern extended to metro and micro areas as well. Counties located in central areas of CBSAs grew by nearly 4.9% on average, while those in outlying areas of the CBSAs grew by an average of only 1.2%.

This pattern helps to explain why more than half (50.7%) of counties showed declines in their total housing unit count when the national count grew by 6.7% between 2010 and 2020.

Even Texas, the state that added the most housing units, showed decreases in more than half (52.4%) of its counties — reflecting the concentration of housing unit growth in larger metropolitan counties, with declines more common in smaller non-metropolitan counties.

Only six states — Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island — had more housing units in 2020 than in 2010 in every one of their counties.

West Virginia and Puerto Rico, the only two areas that lost units overall, had the highest proportion (80%) of counties that lost housing units.

Where People Live

Changes in the number of housing units from 2010 to 2020 resulted from macroeconomic changes and other factors that affect where people live and build homes.

The decennial census is the most accurate and effective source of information for capturing these shifts, especially for smaller geographies and historically harder-to-reach populations.

The 2020 Census housing unit counts also provide the foundation for the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the American Housing Survey, which will provide additional details about the U.S. housing stock and the shifts that develop over the next decade.

 

Evan Brassell is chief of the Census Bureau’s Housing Statistics Branch in the Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

 

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Surveys/Programs > Decennial

The U.S. Census Bureau provides the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico with population counts to use in their redrawing of congressional and state legisla­tive district boundaries — a process known as “redistricting.”

While the states are responsible for legislative redistricting, the Census Bureau provides population counts possible for the geographic areas the states need.

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