Census reports on rental vacancies in Q4

rental vacancy

The Census Bureau released its quarterly report on home ownership and occupancy for Q4 2022. It stated that the rental housing vacancy rate was 5.8 percent, down from a level of 6.0 percent in Q3 2022 but up from a reported level of 5.6 percent in Q4 2021.

Multiple looks at vacancy data

The headline vacancy rate reported by Census is for all rental housing in the country, both single-family and multifamily. Census breaks down this figure in various ways, including by the number of units in the building. The chart, below, illustrates this comparison.

rental vacancy rate by unit count

The chart shows that single-family rentals have had lower vacancy rates than have multifamily rentals for most of the period pictured. By the numbers, the single-family rental vacancy rate was 5.4 percent in Q4 2022, up 0.4 percentage points from last quarter and up 0.5 percentage points from the level in Q4 2021. The rental vacancy rate for units in buildings with 5 or more units was 6.5 percent in Q4 2022, down from 6.8 percent in Q3 2022 but up from 6.4 percent in Q4 2021.

The rental vacancy rate in the core cities of the Census Bureau’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) was 5.9 percent in Q4 2022, down from 6.5 reported for the previous quarter. The rental vacancy rate in the suburbs of the MSAs was 5.3 percent in Q4 2022, unchanged from its level in Q3. These trends are shown in the next chart, below.

rental vacancy rate history

The rental vacancy rate history for each of the Census regions is shown in the next chart, below. It should be noted that the margins of error for these readings are about the same size as the quarter-to-quarter changes, so this data should be looked at for long-term trends and relationships rather than focusing too much on quarter-to-quarter changes. The long-term trend has been for vacancy rates to fall in all regions since 2012 and for vacancy rates to be lower in the Northeast and West than in the Midwest and South.

rental vacancy rate by region

Census reported that 63 percent of vacant rental units were in structures with 2 or more units. Only about 16 percent of the vacant multifamily units had 3 or more bedrooms, with 1 bedroom units comprising 42 percent and 2 bedroom units comprising 39 percent of vacant stock. The median rental vacancy duration for multifamily properties in Q4 2022 was 2.4 months, down from 2.6 months one year earlier.

Tracking rentership

The Census Bureau reported that 34.1 percent of the country’s 129,396,000 occupied housing units were inhabited by renter households in Q4 2022. This rate is up slightly from that in Q3 as the growth in the number of homeowning households outpaced the growth in the number of rental households.

The history of the number of occupied housing units and the share of renter households since 2012 is shown in the next chart, below. Excepting the pandemic period where the data was suspect, the chart shows a trend of relatively more of the nation’s housing being occupied by owners than by renters over time.

homeownership rate

Other than the first year of the pandemic, the number of renter-occupied housing units reported by the Census Bureau since 2016 has consistently been between 43.1 million and 44.2 million. Renter households were reported to rise to 44.2 million in Q4 from 43.6 million in Q3 and from 44.0 million in Q4 2021. By contrast, the number of owner-occupied housing units rose to 85.2 million in Q4 from 84.7 million in Q3 and from 83.6 million in Q4 2022.

A look at rents

The Census Bureau also tracks the median asking rents for the country as-a-whole. The history of their findings is shown in the next chart, below. Census reported that rents fell in Q4 2022 to a national average of $1,322. This is down from the all-time high for the Census data series of $1,334 reached in Q3.

national median rent

The last chart, below, shows the history of the average rent by Census region as a percentage of the national average rent. It shows rents in the West are now the highest in the country by a significant margin. Rents in the Northeast, which once vied for the position as the highest in the country, have been trending lower relative to the national average over the past two years. Relative rents in the South have returned to their pre-pandemic levels while rents in the Midwest remain the lowest in the country.

median rent by region

The Census report is called Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, Third Quarter 2022. It is available here.