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Vacancy Rate

Description: 

Every 10 years as of April 1, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census of the nation’s housing units. The housing units are specified as being occupied or vacant. The Census Bureau’s definition of a vacant unit differs from that of the real estate industry. A housing unit used seasonally is counted as vacant by the Census Bureau, though it is not on the market for sale or for rent. Similarly, the Census Bureau counts some structures as vacant housing units that the real estate industry would not consider a housing unit. Examples include units under construction that are substantially complete but that have not yet received a certificate of occupancy and hogans on the Navajo Reservation that are used only for ceremonial purposes.

Counts of the number of vacant units by the nature of the vacancy are provided for the following categories:

  • For rent
  • For sale only
  • Rented, not occupied
  • Sold, not occupied
  • Seasonal, recreational, or occasional use
  • Other (units held vacant for any other reason, including personal reasons of the owner)

The vacancy rate figures are presented on Arizona Indicators for Arizona and the 15 Arizona counties, with the focus on the 2010 rate and the change from 2000 to 2010. Additional data, for example for smaller geographic areas and for earlier censuses, are available from the Census Bureau.

Data Source: 

U. S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau. For 2010 data: http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml. For 2000 data: http://www.census.gov/main/www/cen2000.html.

Data Quality Comments: 

The decennial census is intended to count all housing units. However, some units are missed. The inclusion of nontraditional housing units (for example, a recreational vehicle lived in by a household that has no permanent dwelling is included in the housing count but other RVs are not counted) varies somewhat from one decennial census to the next, which affects the census vacancy rate.

iconVacancy Rate, Arizona and Three Most Populous Counties

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Visualization Notes:

Though the overall vacancy rate rose in Maricopa and Pima counties between 2000 and 2010, the 2010 levels still were less than in Pinal County, which experienced a decline in vacancy rate between 2000 and 2010.

iconVacancy Rate, Less Populous Counties

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Visualization Notes:

The overall vacancy rate increased between 2000 and 2010 in eight of Arizona’s 12 less populous counties. The vacancy rate in 2010 ranged from less than 15 percent in three counties to more than 40 percent in La Paz County.

iconVacancy Rate By Type, 2010

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Visualization Notes:

The “for rent, for sale, or rented/sold not yet occupied” vacancy rate is similar in definition to the vacancy rate used by the real estate industry. The percentage of units in the rented or sold but not yet occupied subcategory is small, a combined 0.6 percent in Arizona in 2010 (and 0.5 percent nationally). In contrast, 4.2 percent of the housing units in Arizona were for rent and 2.3 percent were for sale. In the United States, the comparable percentages were 3.1 and 1.4. Thus the “real estate” vacancy rate in Arizona was a full 2 percentage points higher than the national average, a reflection of the depth of the real estate crash and recession in Arizona.

Other than Greenlee County’s very high rate, associated with a slump in copper mining, the “for rent, for sale, or rented/sold not yet occupied” vacancy rate in 2010 ranged from 3.2 percent to 7.8 percent across Arizona’s counties. The two counties constituting the metro Phoenix area—Maricopa and Pinal—had the highest rates (other than Greenlee County).

A considerably higher proportion of Arizona’s housing units are held for seasonal, recreational, and occasional use than the U.S. average (6.5 versus 3.5 percent). The proportion of units vacant for other reasons was 2.8 percent in Arizona, the same as the national average.

The vacancy rate attributed to units held for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use ranges widely across Arizona, from less than 5 percent in Cochise, Graham, and Maricopa counties to more than 25 percent in La Paz and Navajo counties in 2010. Vacancies for other reasons varied from 2 percent to nearly 10 percent in 2010. Two of the highest rates were in Apache and Navajo counties and likely reflect the ceremonial use of traditional hogans.

iconVacancy Rate By Type, Change, 2000 to 2010

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Visualization Notes:

The real estate boom and bust during the 2000s contributed to an increase in the “for rent, for sale, or rented/sold not yet occupied” vacancy rate between 2000 and 2010 in Arizona. The percentage of units for rent increased from 2.8 to 4.2 percent; the increase in the share for sale was from 1.3 to 2.3 percent. In contrast, the percentage rented or sold but not yet occupied was unchanged. Nationally, the increases were not as large, with the total “real estate” vacancy rate rising 1.2 percentage points, half of the increase in Arizona.

Despite the 2.4 percentage point increase in the “for rent, for sale, or rented/sold not yet occupied” vacancy rate between 2000 and 2010 in Arizona, the rate decreased in two counties and the increase was less than 1 percentage point in five counties. Other than a very large increase in Greenlee, Arizona’s least populous county, the largest rise in rate was in Maricopa, Arizona’s most populous county.

Arizona’s percentage of housing units held for seasonal, recreational, and occasional use was unchanged between 2000 and 2010; a small increase occurred nationally. The increase in the rate of other vacancies was the same in Arizona as the U.S. average.

The portion of the vacancy rate due to seasonal, recreational, or occasional use rose in some counties but fell others between 2000 and 2010. A big drop in Pinal County resulted from the increasing urbanization of that county, with most of its new residents of working age and living in their house year-round. The rate was little changed in the other two populous counties (Maricopa and Pima). The change in the rate in the “other” category of vacancies is difficult to assess given the differing reasons for the vacancies included in this category and changing definitions from one census to another.