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Vacancy Rate

Description: 

The American Community Survey (ACS) has been conducted on an ongoing basis for the entire country since 2005. Annually, calendar-year ACS results are released for areas with a population of at least 65,000. Due to the small sample size, single-year estimates are not available for less-populous areas. Combined estimates for three years of data are available annually for areas with a population of at least 20,000; five years of data are combined for less populous areas. The substantial sampling error present in the ACS is discussed in the data quality comments section below.

Housing units that are vacant at the time the Census Bureau makes contact for the ACS are assigned to one of several categories depending on the reason why the unit is vacant: for rent; for sale; rented or sold but not yet occupied; held for seasonal, recreational or occasional use; or vacant for other reasons. The overall vacancy rate is presented on Arizona Indicators. In addition, the “real estate” vacancy rate — consisting only of vacant units for rent, for sale, or rented or sold but not yet occupied — is displayed. Annual data since 2005 are presented for the United States and Arizona, but data for each of the 15 Arizona counties are limited to a five-year average due to the substantial sampling error.

Data Source: 

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.

Data Quality Comments: 

The Census Bureau publishes the ACS sampling error with every estimate, expressed as the margin of error with 90 percent confidence. The following is an example:

The estimate of the poverty rate in Maricopa County in 2009 was 15.2 percent, with a margin of error of + or – 0.6 percentage points. The interpretation is that there is a 90 percent likelihood that the actual poverty rate was within the confidence interval of 14.6 percent to 15.8 percent. A one-in-ten chance exists that the real rate was outside this range.

For the nation and other very populous areas, the annual ACS estimates are highly accurate. For moderately populous areas such as Arizona, sampling error is moderately large, so caution is urged in using the annual ACS data for the state. The sampling error for less populous areas, such as most of Arizona’s counties, is quite large, even when using five-year averages. Thus, considerable caution is urged in using the five-year ACS data for counties other than Maricopa and Pima.

The published margin of error should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to use a result from the ACS. Whether the reported sampling error is too large depends on the user’s purpose for accessing the data and on the volatility of the measure over time and across geographic areas.

iconVacancy Rate

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Visualization Notes:

The “real estate” vacancy rate considers only vacant housing units that are for rent, for sale, or rented or sold but not yet occupied. In Arizona, this rate has been consistently higher than the national average since 2005, with the differential broadening through 2010. Real estate vacancy rates increased between 2005 and 2009 but the rates dropped in each of the three succeeding years, nationally and in Arizona. Little change occurred in 2013, when Arizona’s rate was 6.0 percent, compared to 4.3 percent nationally.

The overall vacancy rate reported by the Census Bureau includes the real estate vacancy rate plus units held for seasonal, recreational or occasional use plus units held vacant for other reasons. The real estate vacancy rate accounts for considerably less than half of the overall vacancy rate, nationally and in Arizona. Excluding the real estate vacancy rate, the vacancy rate rose considerably between 2005 and 2008 and has continued to climb since then nationally and in Arizona. Arizona’s percentage of housing units held for seasonal, recreational, occasional or other use in 2013 was 11.0 percent, higher than the national average of 8.1 percent.

iconTotal Vacancy Rate, 2009-to-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

Though the total vacancy rate varies widely across Arizona, the average rate between 2009 and 2013 was higher than the national averagein every Arizona county.The high and variable overall vacancy rate was mostly due to housing units held for seasonal, recreational, occasional or other use. The rate was at least 10 percentage points above the national average in eight counties and was lowest in the two most populous counties of Maricopa and Pima.

iconReal Estate Vacancy Rate, 2009-to-2013 Average

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Visualization Notes:

The real estate vacancy rate — which excludes housing held for seasonal, recreational, and occasional use — was 6.4 percent in Arizona between 2009 and 2013, compared to only 4.6 percent nationally. The rate was less than or equal to the national average in six counties, particularly counties in northeastern Arizona with a substantial portion of the population living on Native American reservations. Other than Greenlee County, the rate was highest in Pinal County.

Data Source

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. Annual ACS estimates are released in September; five-year averages are available in December.