The data on contract rent (also referred to as "rent asked" for vacant units) were obtained from Housing Question 15a in the 2009 American Community Survey. The question was asked at occupied housing units that were for rent, vacant housing units that were for rent, and vacant units rented but not occupied at the time of interview.
Housing units that are renter occupied without payment of rent are shown separately as "No rent paid". The unit may be owned by friends or relatives who live elsewhere and who allow occupancy without charge. Rent-free houses or apartments may be provided to compensate caretakers, ministers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers, or others.
Contract rent is the monthly rent agreed to or contracted for, regardless of any furnishings, utilities, fees, meals, or services that may be included. For vacant units, it is the monthly rent asked for the rental unit at the time of interview.
If the contract rent includes rent for a business unit or for living quarters occupied by another household, only that part of the rent estimated to be for the respondent's unit was included. Excluded was any rent paid for additional units or for business premises.
If a renter pays rent to the owner of a condominium or cooperative, and the condominium fee or cooperative carrying charge also is paid by the renter to the owner, the condominium fee or carrying charge was included as rent.
If a renter receives payments from lodgers or roomers who are listed as members of the household, the rent without deduction for any payments received from the lodgers or roomers, was to be reported. The respondent was to report the rent agreed to or contracted for even if paid by someone else such as friends or relatives living elsewhere, a church or welfare agency, or the government through subsidies or vouchers.
Contract rent provides information on the monthly housing cost expenses for renters. When the data is used in conjunction with utility costs and income data, the information offers an excellent measure of housing affordability and excessive shelter costs. The data also serve to aid in the development of housing programs to meet the needs of people at different economic levels, and to provide assistance to agencies in determining policies on fair rent.
Median and Quartile Contract Rent
The median divides the rent distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median contract rent and one-half above the median. Quartiles divide the rent distribution into four equal parts. Median and quartile contract rent are computed on the basis of a standard distribution. (See the "Standard Distributions" section under "Appendix A".) In computing median and quartile contract rent, units reported as "No rent paid" are excluded. Median and quartile rent calculations are rounded to the nearest whole dollar. Upper and lower quartiles can be used to note large rent differences among various geographic areas. (For more information on medians and quartiles, see "Derived Measures".)
Aggregate contract rent is calculated by adding all of the contract rents for occupied housing units in an area. Aggregate contract rent is subject to rounding, which means that all cells in a matrix are rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures".)
Aggregate rent asked is calculated by adding all of the rents for vacant-for-rent housing units in an area. Aggregate rent asked is subject to rounding, which means that all cells in a matrix are rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures".)
Since 1996, the American Community Survey questionnaires provided a space for the respondent to enter a dollar amount. The words "or mobile home" were added to the question starting in 1999 to be more inclusive of the structure type. Since 2004, contract rent has been shown for all renter-occupied housing units. In previous years (1996-2003), it was shown only for specified renter-occupied housing units.
Data on contract rent in the American Community Survey should not be compared to Census 2000 contract rent data. For Census 2000, tables were not released for total renter-occupied units. The universe in Census 2000 was "specified renter-occupied housing units" whereas the universe in the ACS is "renter occupied housing units," thus comparisons cannot be made between these two data sets.