The Census Bureau’s New Resilience Ratings Uncover Housing Investment Targets

The U.S. Census Bureau recently published its first Community Resilience Estimates (CREs). According to the Census Bureau, these resilience estimates are intended to represent “the capacity of individuals and households within a community to absorb the external stresses of a disaster”. The CREs are calculated by measuring the number of people in an area who exhibit one or more of ten risk factors as defined by the Bureau. The ten risk factors are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Ten Risk Factors in the Census Bureau’s CRE.

The Census Bureau counted the number of individuals in an area that exhibited either (1) zero risk factors (Low risk), (2) one or two risk factors (Medium risk), and (3) three or more risk factors (High risk). Using this categorization, the CREs provide the percent of population that fall into each of these three categories in each census tract. If a tract has a higher percent of population that falls into the Medium and/or High-risk categories, the community is expected to be less resilient. These tracts are particularly susceptible to stress when suffering from a disaster such as the pandemic or a hurricane.

Resiliency Assessment for Low Income and Minority Tracts under FHFA’s Housing Goals

SP Group applied the CREs to the proposed 2022-2024 affordable single-family housing goals established by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for the Government-Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs). The housing goals are designed to ensure equitable access to affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, minority communities, and other underserved populations.

This year FHFA proposed two new single-family home purchase subgoals that target low-income neighborhoods and minority communities. The GSEs are required to purchase at least four percent of their single-family mortgage loans in low-income census tracts* and at least 10 percent in minority census tracts†. The GSEs identified 23,091 low-income tracts and 24,334 minority tracts in 2021. The tract designations can overlap, i.e., a tract can be classified as both “low-income” and “minority”. Among the universe of tracts, 17,589 were identified as both “low-income” and “minority”.

SP Group analyzed each tract using the CRE risk scale. We established a benchmark by computing the median percent for each of the three CRE risk categories (i.e., Low, Medium, and High) when applied to all 73,057 census tracts in the nation. Using this benchmark, we then reviewed the 23,091 low-income and 24,334 minority tracts to analyze their relative resiliency levels.

We found that there were 1,153 low-income census tracts (or 5 percent of low-income tracts) that exhibited the highest level of resiliency. In other words, we found that 1,153 low-income tracts showed the highest percent of population with zero risk factors (i.e., CRE of Low Risk). They also showed smallest percent of population with one or more risk factors (i.e., CRE of Medium or High Risk) when compared to the median percent for the nation in each of the respective risk categories. Similarly, we found 1,271 minority census tracts (or about 5 percent of 24,334) that exhibited the highest level of resiliency. Figure 2 illustrates our findings of applying the CREs to the low-income and minority census tracts.

Figure 2

SP Group’s Housing Market Assessment for High Resiliency Census Tracts

While the Community Resilience Estimates provide an indicative assessment of the economic profile of a geographic area, SP Group analyzed the high resiliency tracts for housing market growth prospects. We analyzed the high resiliency tracts (1,153 low-income and 1,271 minority) for housing market growth prospects by reviewing trends over a five-year period (from 2014 to 2019) for factors such as:

  • A decrease in unemployment rate;
  • A decrease in vacancy rate;
  • An increase in median income; and
  • An increase in median home values.

We found 161 low-income census tracts that not only exhibited the highest level of resiliency in terms of Census Bureau’s CREs but also showed positive trends for housing market growth. Similarly, we found 216 minority census tracts that also showed highest resiliency and promising trends for housing market growth. Figure 3 illustrates our findings.

Figure 3.

For more information on where these tracts are located and details of our methodology for housing market growth, please contact us at

*A low-income census tract is one where the tract median income is 80 percent or lower than the area median income (AMI). AMI is calculated by comparing the census tract median income to the median income of the relevant metropolitan area or county.

†A minority census tract is one where the median income is below the AMI and minorities make up at least 30 percent of the population.