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residential use to nonresidential purposes. Still another gap in housing statistics is caused by the fact that no systematic data are available to show the loss of residential structures through demolition, fire, floods and other disasters.
During World War II and later during the period of the Veterans' Emergency Housing Program, when critical needs developed for adequate bases upon which to make programming estimates of materials consumption, the data on residential construction activity were put to a severe test, and had to be pressed into service in connection with many problems which do not exist in normal times. Certain of the gaps referred to assumed major significance. For example, the lack of adequate information on repair and maintenance activity, and on conversions, left wide areas of doubt in material requirements estimates. The probability of an unusually high rate of lapse in the use of local building permits after issuance, or of local differences in those rates, raised many questions about the reliability of permit reports as indicators of actual starts and therefore of material needs. In some instances temporary reporting systems based on Federal priority operations, made it possible to obtain measures of some items, such as conversions, which are useful even though they cover limited periods. Perhaps more important from the statistical viewpoint, these temporary systems provided experience with the technical problems and cost that must be expected in any attempt to make basic improvements in the data collection program in this field. The emergency reporting systems were aided by priority systems which simplified the selection of samples and the control of coverage. No such convenient foundation for a reporting system exists in peacetime. Given the highly decentralized nature of the residential construction industry and its large and constantly changing membership, only a portion of which reports building plans to local building departments, the systematic collection of data on a permanent basis is a far from simple task. It seems clear, therefore, that supplementary field studies such as the BLS has conducted in the past will continue to be needed for some time to come.
BLS is also making sample surveys to develop data on the intended occupancy of privately financed dwelling units. Information on these surveys may be obtained from BLS.
Arrangement and Scope of Data
Not all of the available data on housing production could be included in this volume, but an attempt has been made to include all those which appear to be of major importance on a national basis. In some cases data also are provided by census region and for selected localities.
Chapter I is a discussion of privately financed housing production, in terms of numbers of dwelling units. Chapter II treats residential construction in terms of dollar volume. Chapter III is devoted to public housing, and covers both numbers of units and expenditures for them. Chapter IV is a discussion of residential construction cost indexes; although they are not measures of housing production their relation to construction activity indicated their inclusion in this part of this volume.
Several points should be noted concerning the data:
(1) The series on housing production represents only new nonfarm family dwelling units. The terms "nonfarm" and "family dwelling unit" are defined in chapter I under the discussion of the estimating procedure employed by the BLS, and these terms must be understood in connection with the data on physical volume as well as dollar volume of construction. This publication provides no data on the volume of farm construction, very little of which is available. With respect to the types of accommodations such as trailers, dormitories, etc., which are excluded from the basic series, however, several sets of data on such war and emergency housing are presented in the appendix. It also is possible to obtain, from the F. W. Dodge Corp., current data on construction contracts awarded in the 37 Eastern States for hotels, dormitories, etc.
(2) No break-down of units by sale or rent is included, since no such break-down is made in any of the regular series. BLS does provide a break-down by type of structure and rough minimum guesses as to the number of units placed on the rental market may be made by assuming that all multifamily units are for rent and that one unit in all two-family structures will be rented. There are, of course, a substantial
building materials were generally available, an urgent need developed for data on completion progress. Under the sponsorship of the National Housing Agency and Office of the Housing Expediter, the BLS conducted a series of special field studies to develop factors by means of which estimates of completions could be made. The cost of those field studies and the lack of widespread demand for such data in normal times make it unlikely that such estimates will continue as a permanent part of the body of residential construction data after the end of the emergency period.
Physical Volume of Privately Financed Nonfarm Residential Construction
The introductory discussion above has served to disclose the fact that available data do not adequately cover certain aspects of residential construction, such as farm construction, conversions, and repair and maintenance activity. A distinction also was made there between the statistical program covering normal types of construction and the emergency reporting systems covering such nonconventional types of shelter as trailers and reuse dormitories.
While these are important items, the construction of new permanent housing is by far the most important component in the provision of shelter. Again, as the introductory table shows, new
Table 1.-New privately financed nonfarm dwelling units started, United States totals, by urban and rural nonfarm area, by year, 1920-46
housing financed by private investment is by far the most important element in permanenttype housing.
It is the purpose of this chapter to describe in more detail the methods developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to prepare its estimates on the volume of such privately financed nonfarm new housing in terms of family dwelling units. Volume in terms of cost is discussed in chapter II.
Most of the estimates presented are for the country as a whole, but certain of the data have been provided for the nine major census geographic divisions. Data also are presented for the 59 selected industrial areas and urban counties for which BLS conducted its regular area housing surveys. The national estimates are of course most reliable, the difficulties of precise estimation increasing as the area covered decreases. It should be noted that the 59 industrial areas and urban counties were selected by BLS as sample areas from which data essential to its national estimates could be obtained. They do not necessarily represent local housing markets.
The family dwelling unit, as used in these statistical series, is defined as a living accommodation intended for occupancy by one household. Occupancy may be "year around" or it may be seasonal; the unit, however, must not be located on
a farm. The dwelling unit may be a single-family detached dwelling, or it may be one of two such units in a duplex or one-over-one type structure. Or it may be one of many apartments in a multifamily structure. Space considerations do not apply in the use of the definition, provided the accommodations permit housekeeping use. Stopgap accommodations such as trailers are not included, nor are single persons or transient accommodations such as dormitories, commercial hotels and tourist cabins.
Table 3.-New privately financed dwelling units started in urban areas: By type of structure, by year, 1936-46, by month, January 1945-March 1947
[Annual data rounded to thousands-monthly data rounded to hundreds]
Type of structure