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Rental Assistance Priority Index

Updated May 14, 2021

Correction Note: On April 5, 2021, we announced that we had updated the “Where to Prioritize Emergency Rental Assistance to Keep Renters in Their Homes” feature with new data. The data catalog files were updated, and any downloads on or after April 5 contained the most current data. However, the interactive map on the feature page did not update correctly, meaning that from April 5 to May 14, 2021, the map still displayed the old data, released August 25, 2020.

As of May 14, 2021, both the feature and the data links on this page use the most current data. We have uploaded the old August 2020 data to this page (see the download marked “OLD DATA Aug 2020 to Apr 2021: Emergency Rental Assistance Index (State Adjusted) Geojson”) so users can see exactly what changed.

Data Description:
This data file contains the tract-level data used to generate the “Where to Prioritize Emergency Rental Assistance to Keep Renters in Their Homes” feature: the 11 indicators, z-scores for each indicator, the three subindex values, the overall index value, the quantiles for each subindex and the index, the z-scores for each indicator and quantile, and the number of extremely low–income renters and flags for tracts that were grayed out in the feature. The data dictionary provides specific definitions for each of the fields in the provided tract-level CSV and geoJSON.

The research team created the index using data from three sources: American Community Survey (ACS) five-year estimates, the Urban Institute’s “Where Low-Income Jobs Are Being Lost to COVID-19” data tool, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy (CHAS) dataset. When we first published the feature in April 5, 2021, we used the most recent data available at publication time. We have since updated the feature on April 5, 2021 and are using the most recent data available as of then. The datasets we are using are: the 2015–19 estimates for the ACS, the March 2021 update of Urban’s job-loss data tool, and the 2013–17 CHAS data.

The total index is made up of three subindexes: Equity, Housing Instability Risk, and COVID-19 Impact. Each subindex is made up of two to five indicators, pulled from the three data sources. The indicators were each standardized into z-scores, which were indexed to the state level. The index was constructed with weighted averages of the three subindex values. The feature maps and displays the percentile (instead of raw values) that a tract falls into, both for the full index and each subindex, compared with all other census tracts in its state

The methodology used to generate the data and select indicators and weights can be found here (PDF) . The interactive data visualization powered by these data can be found here.

These fields are compatible with DCAT, an RDF vocabulary designed to facilitate interoperability between data catalogs published on the Web.
Release Date
Contact Name
Urban Institute
Contact Email
Public Access Level
These fields are specific to Urban Institute.
Original Data Source
Citation Requirements

Urban Institute. 2021. Rental Assistance Priority Index. Accessible from Data originally sourced from 2015-19 ACS, March 2021 update of the Urban Institute’s “Where Low-Income Jobs Are Being Lost to COVID-19” data tool, and the 2013–17 US Department of Housing and Urban Developments Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy data data . Developed at the Urban Institute, and made available under the ODC-BY 1.0 Attribution License.