Many Americans probably wonder how decisions are made about what federal, state, and local funds will be spent on. At all levels of government, one of the most useful tools for understanding the needs of a community and for determining how funds are spent is the American Community Survey (ACS). At NLIHC and throughout the affordable housing field, ACS data are used to determine the need for affordable housing, making this resource extremely important to the work we do. Here’s how it works:

Approximately three million households across America participate in the ACS every year, providing timely data on the social, economic, demographic, and housing characteristics of the U.S. population.

NLIHC and other affordable housing organizations use the ACS data to produce resources and educational tools such as Out of Reach, the Congressional District Profiles, and other research reports like editions of Housing Spotlight.

Policy makers, academics, researchers, and advocates learn about real economic and housing trends in communities across America from the ACS data, helping our country make informed decisions on how to spend more than $400 billion in federal and state funds every year.

The House votes to eliminate the ACS Survey.

Wait, something isn’t right here – but you read that right… Much to our surprise, last week the House passed a bill with an amendment sponsored by Representative Daniel Webster (R-FL) that would eliminate all funding for the ACS. It also approved an amendment sponsored by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) that would make the ACS voluntary. Research shows that a voluntary ACS would make the survey more expensive, less accurate, and less beneficial for research purposes.

So what’s the next line in this story?

Housing advocates and concerned citizens alike use their voices to ensure that this critical national survey is continued in a way that maintains its statistical reliability.

You can join NLIHC and do just that, and here’s how:
•    As an organization:  Sign on to a letter urging Senators to continue funding the ACS in its FY13 appropriations bill. The letter was produced by the Census Project, a coalition of organizations including NLIHC that is dedicated to a fair and accurate census. Sign on by emailing Brendan Nichols ( your organization’s name and the city and state in parentheses. Click here to read the letter; the deadline is close of business TODAY so sign-on now!
•    As an individual:  Call your Senator and urge them to protect this critical housing data tool.  You can also contact your Senators directly by calling the Congressional switchboard at 877-210-5351 to be connected to your Senators’ offices. Or enter your zip code into the “Contact Congress” box on the bottom of the right side bar at

NLIHC and other advocates tell a story of a country desperately in need of more affordable housing. But what makes this story so important and compelling are the hard facts behind it. The ACS provides critical data on the incomes and housing conditions for households across America. These data are what strengthens the argument made by NLIHC that there is a lack of, and need for, more affordable housing. And that’s why these data, and this story, are so important.