The data on gross rent were obtained from answers to Housing Questions 11a-d and 15a in the 2012 American Community Survey. Gross rent is the contract rent plus the estimated average monthly cost of utilities (electricity, gas, and water and sewer) and fuels (oil, coal, kerosene, wood, etc.) if these are paid by the renter (or paid for the renter by someone else). Gross rent is intended to eliminate differentials that result from varying practices with respect to the inclusion of utilities and fuels as part of the rental payment. The estimated costs of water and sewer, and fuels are reported on a 12-month basis but are converted to monthly figures for the tabulations. Renter units occupied without payment of rent are shown separately as "No rent paid" in the tabulations.
Gross rent provides information on the monthly housing cost expenses for renters. When the data is used in conjunction with 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.
Adjusting Gross Rent for Inflation
To inflate gross rent amounts from previous years, the dollar values are inflated to the latest year's dollar values by multiplying by a factor equal to the average annual Consumer Price Index (CPI-U-RS) factor for the current year, divided by the average annual CPI-U-RS factor for the earlier/earliest year.
Median gross rent divides the gross rent distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median gross rent and one-half above the median. Median gross rent is computed on the basis of a standard distribution. (See the "Standard Distributions" section in Appendix A.) Median gross rent is rounded to the nearest whole dollar. (For more information on medians, see "Derived Measures.")
Aggregate gross rent is calculated by adding together all the gross rents for all specified housing units in an area. Aggregate gross rent is rounded to the nearest hundred dollars. (For more information, see "Aggregate" under "Derived Measures.")
Since 1996, the American Community Survey questions have remained the same.
Data on gross rent in the 2012 American Community Survey should not be compared to Census 2000 gross 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.