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Let’s not drive blind—keep the American Community Survey

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

You wouldn’t drive your car with your eyes closed, so why should we make multi-billion dollar policy decisions that way? Last week, the House approved an amendment to eliminate the American Community Survey, a part of the U.S. Census that collects essential data on Americans’ housing and transportation choices, among many other data. Those data are how we see the results of policy choices, how we know whether what we’re doing to provide safe, decent, and affordable housing opportunities are actually working, how we avoid costly policy mistakes.

A recent example—the Center for Housing Policy’s Housing Landscape 2012 report showed that even as housing prices were falling, severe cost burdens for homeowners and renters were getting worse. That’s essential insight for policymakers, because it’s far too easy to simply assume that since house prices have fallen, affordability concerns need not command attention. To provide that insight, the Center for Housing Policy relies, in part, on the data from the American Community Survey.

Likely, the House’s action is simply position-taking without much chance of changing law. But just so that our lawmakers know how important the American Community Survey is, NHC has joined with others organized by the Census Project to express our desire for a robust, mandatory American Community Survey.

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