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Cityscape: Volume 11 Number 2 | Chapter 5


Regulatory Innovation and Affordable Housing

Volume 11 Number 2

Measuring Housing Quality in the Housing Choice Voucher Program With Customer Satisfaction Survey Data

Brent D. Mast

Data Shop

Data Shop, a department of Cityscape, presents short articles or notes on the uses of data in housing and urban research. Through this department, PD&R introduces readers to new and overlooked data sources and to improved techniques in using well-known data. The emphasis is on sources and methods that analysts can use in their own work. Researchers often run into knotty data problems involving data interpretation or manipulation that must be solved before a project can proceed, but they seldom get to focus in detail on the solutions to such problems. If you have an idea for an applied, data-centric note of no more than 3,000 words, please send a one-paragraph abstract to for consideration.

The contents of this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. government.


From 2000 through 2002, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducted a yearly national survey of Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) households, dubbed the Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSS).1 This article describes the survey methodology and the resulting publicly available data set.2

During the 3 years of the survey, nearly one-half million households returned questionnaires, answering a wide variety of questions regarding the condition of their housing and neighborhoods. The large sample size was designed to provide yearly housing condition estimates in almost every public housing agency (PHA). Although most surveyed households reported high levels of satisfaction with their homes, some households also revealed serious deficiencies.

CSS data contain a large amount of household information, enabling researchers to study survey results for various demographic groups. For example, single heads of households with children tend to report lower housing quality and satisfaction relative to other households, particularly elderly households and those headed by nonelderly persons with disabilities. HCVP households in the western United States report higher levels of housing quality relative to voucher households in other regions. Reported housing quality also varies with PHA size.

This article presents an example of CSS data analysis using survey responses regarding crime and drug problems. West Virginia responses are averaged at the county level and are compared with county property and violent crime rates. Results indicate HCVP household perceptions about crime are more closely related to property crime than to violent crime.

The remainder of the article is organized as follows. The next section presents various aspects of the survey design and resulting data set. The third section discusses data validation, followed by the fourth section, which reviews past studies employing CSS data. Examples of CSS data analysis are presented in section five. The final section summarizes this article.

1 The official title of the survey is "The Section 8 Housing Quality and Customer Satisfaction Survey." The resulting data set of responses is sometimes referred to as the "CSA" for "Customer Satisfaction Answers." For consistency and brevity, we refer to both the survey and data set as the CSS.

2 Researchers interested in obtaining survey responses may contact Brent Mast at Users must agree to standard HUD policies regarding use of household data.


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