Severe housing problems

Percentage of households with at least 1 of 4 housing problems: overcrowding, high housing costs, lack of kitchen facilities, or lack of plumbing facilities.
The 2019 County Health Rankings used data from 2011-2015 for this measure.

Measure Tabs


Reason for Ranking

Good health depends on having homes that are safe and free from physical hazards. When adequate housing protects individuals and families from harmful exposures and provides them with a sense of privacy, security, stability and control, it can make important contributions to health. In contrast, poor quality and inadequate housing contributes to health problems such as infectious and chronic diseases, injuries, and poor childhood development.

Key Measure Methods

Severe Housing Problems is a Percentage

Severe Housing Problems is the percentage of households with one or more of the following housing problems:

  1. Housing unit lacks complete kitchen facilities;
  2. Housing unit lacks complete plumbing facilities;
  3. Household is overcrowded; or
  4. Household is severely cost burdened.


The numerator is the number of households in a county with at least one of the above housing problems. Incomplete kitchen facilities is defined as a unit which lacks a sink with running water, a stove or range, or a refrigerator. Incomplete plumbing facilities is defined as lacking hot and cold piped water, a flush toilet, or a bathtub/shower. Overcrowding is defined as more than 1 person per room. Severe cost burden is defined as monthly housing costs (including utilities) that exceed 50% of monthly income.


The denominator is the total number of households in a county.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress?

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the County Health Rankings is a 5-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single-year estimates from the resource listed below. In addition, this measure is a composite of the 4 housing problems. It might be of interest to break these out using the data source listed below to more appropriately track progress.

Data Source

Years of Data Used


Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) data

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) periodically receives "custom tabulations" of data from the U.S. Census Bureau that are largely not available through standard Census products. These data, known as the "CHAS" data (Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy), demonstrate the extent of housing problems and housing needs, particularly for low income households. The CHAS data are used by local governments to plan how to spend HUD funds, and may also be used by HUD to distribute grant funds.

Digging Deeper

Subcounty Areatrue

Overcrowding by race can be calculated from tables B25014A-I. Lack of complete plumbing or kitchen facilities, housing costs as a percentage of income, and overcrowding can be calculated for census tracts and census block groups using table DP04. Severe cost burden can be found in census tables B25074 and B25095 broken out by owners/renters. These tables can be accessed through the American Factfinder.

In addition, the Community Commons Health Equity Assessment Report provides a census tract map of the rate of substandard housing. Note, you will need to log in to the website in order to access these reports.

See how this measure fits into our model

To learn more, view our interactive model.
Policies and Programs Health Factors Health Outcomes Length of Life (50%) Quality of Life (50%) Health Behaviors (30%) Tobacco Use Diet & Exercise Alcohol & Drug Use Sexual Activity Clinical Care (20%) Access to Care Quality of Care Social and Economic Factors (40%) Education Employment Income Family & Social Support Community Safety Physical Environment (10%) Air & Water Quality Housing & Transit County Health Rankings model © 2014 UWPHI