Understanding Housing in Champaign County

Understanding housing – where people live, how much housing costs, what new housing gets built and where – is an important part of the planning field. This month on the blog, we take a look at the housing stock of Champaign County and its municipalities, with a focus on housing tenure (i.e., whether the housing unit is owned or rented), and comparative costs based on housing tenure.

We’ll see if the size of a housing market, here based on the total number of housing units, sets the trend for tenure rate – if municipalities with more housing units have a more equal distribution of owner- and renter- occupied units. We’ll also look at whether the number of housing units dictates housing costs – if municipalities with more units also have higher housing costs, and vice versa, or if the inverse is true.

Table: Housing Unit Tenure in Champaign County MunicipalitiesDownload table data for Housing Unit Tenure in Champaign County Municipalities.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B25001; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (26 October 2017)., U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B25003; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (25 October 2017).

Tenure distribution varies widely between county municipalities, but we can spot a few trends and clusters. Clearly, the majority of municipalities in the county have an owner-occupancy rate of 50% or more: 22 out of 24. We also find that the four municipalities with the most housing units in the county (Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, and Savoy) have the highest rates of renter occupancy; Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy are also those municipalities that we can safely posit are most impacted by the University of Illinois student population.

Beyond finding those four clustered together with the highest renter-occupancy rates, there is no unbroken trend that holds true across all 24 municipalities. The data does not show that municipalities with more housing units always have higher renter-occupancy rates, and that municipalities with fewer housing units always tend to be more owner-occupied.

As always, it’s wise to keep an eye on the margins of error, and to consider the size of the margin of error compared to the estimate itself. Ivesdale’s margin of error, +/-25, doesn’t seem much larger than Foosland’s, +/-17, but their respective estimates are 137 and 47. Foosland’s MOE is greater relative to its estimate, even though it’s numerically smaller. We talked about why that tends to happen in our August 2016 blog post.

So we’ve seen that tenure rates don’t necessarily hinge on the size of the housing stock; now we’ll look at whether housing costs do. The tables below show, in order of highest to lowest, housing costs in Champaign County municipalities for all housing units, owner-occupied housing units, and renter-occupied housing units.

Table: Housing Costs: All Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County MunicipalitiesDownload table data for Housing Costs: All Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County Municipalities.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S2503; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 October 2017).

Table: Housing Costs: Owner-Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County MunicipalitiesDownload table data for Housing Costs: Owner-Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County Municipalities.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S2501; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 October 2017)., U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table DP04; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (25 October 2017).

Table: Housing Costs: Renter-Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County MunicipalitiesDownload table data for Housing Costs: Renter-Occupied Housing Units in Champaign County Municipalities.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S2501; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (30 October 2017)., U.S. Census Bureau; American Community Survey, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table DP04; generated by CCRPC staff; using American FactFinder; <http://factfinder2.census.gov>; (25 October 2017).

There are a few common elements that crop up in all three tables. In all three markets (all housing, owner-occupied housing, and renter-occupied housing), Mahomet, Champaign, and Savoy appear among the five most expensive evaluated* municipalities, while Thomasboro, Allerton, and Ludlow consistently appear among the five least expensive evaluated municipalities. The median housing costs for owner-occupied units tend to be higher than the median housing costs for renter-occupied units in the same municipality, while the median housing costs for all housing units, logically, tend to fall somewhere in between.

Beyond those commonalities, the distribution of housing costs across county municipalities vary. Some municipalities, like Fisher, appear relatively high on the list for owner-occupied housing costs, meaning they’re comparatively expensive, but low on the list for renter-occupied housing costs, relatively inexpensive. Others show relatively high rental costs, but relatively low owner costs, like Bondville, Broadlands and Sadorus. In all three tables, as in the tenure table, the size of the housing market does not appear to control the factor we’re evaluating: median housing costs.

This analysis leads us to our very favorite answers: “sort of,” and “sometimes.”

We did see a cluster of municipalities with larger numbers of housing units with a more even split between owner- and renter-occupancy. But that came with caveats: although Champaign, Urbana, Rantoul, and Savoy, the municipalities with the most total housing units, also had the most even tenure distribution, that trend ended there. Mahomet, St. Joseph, and Tolono, with the next largest numbers of housing units, had tenure distribution rates more similar to the medium and small municipalities in the county. With Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, it’s easy to attribute this to the influence of a renter-heavy student population, but the even tenure distribution of Rantoul, outside of the Champaign-Urbana urbanized area and without the university presence, means that the answer isn’t that simple.

We end up with even less justification for crediting the number of housing units with determining relative median housing costs. As we discussed above, some municipalities tend to have comparably higher housing costs, and others comparably lower, but they don’t correspond to relatively larger or smaller stocks of housing units.

So does the size of the housing stock influence the median housing cost? Maybe. To some degree. Does it set an absolute county-wide trend of larger stocks showing higher or lower housing costs? No. It turns out to be a lot more complicated than that.

*You may notice that four municipalities (Ivesdale, Longview, Foosland, and Royal) are listed as Not Applicable in the Renter-Occupied Housing Units table. The 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates does not publish median gross rent figures for renter-occupied units in these municipalities.

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