RFQ: Tompkins County Housing Rent and Vacancy Survey

Summary. Tompkins County is seeking consulting services to develop a replicable methodology for a countywide annual rent and vacancy survey of rental housing units, and to conduct said survey in 2018. This will be an annual survey, intended to help monitor changing housing market conditions as well as progress towards meeting local housing needs as part of the Tompkins County Housing Strategy. 

Statements of Qualifications from interested firms are requested by 4 PM (EST) on Thursday, November 16, 2017 and should be submitted to the Tompkins County Purchasing Department (submission details identified below). 

Project Background. Tompkins County is an attractive place to live with its mix of remarkable natural features, a vibrant urban center, renowned academic institutions, and a productive working landscape. The City of Ithaca is located in the center of the county, and is a regional employment center and transportation hub, while much of the remainder of the county is suburban and rural in character. The City has two more densely urbanized areas, downtown Ithaca and the Collegetown neighborhood adjacent to Cornell University. 

The county has a large percentage of renters (44.5%) and nearly 30,000 students. Historically, a large proportion of students have lived off campus, primarily in smaller properties such as former single family homes divided into apartments and older boarding houses. Over 13,000 apartments in the county are in smaller properties with under 24 units, and nearly 6,000 apartments are in larger properties with 24 units or more. Vacancy rates vary both geographically within the county, as well as between units in these small vs. large properties. 

Given the persistent and growing housing challenges in the county, the Tompkins County Housing Needs Assessment was completed in 2016 (https://tinyurl.com/TompkinsHousingNeedsAssessment). This information helped inform the development of the Tompkins County Housing Strategy (https://tinyurl.com/TompkinsHousingStrategy), which was endorsed by the County Legislature in July 2017. The Housing Strategy calls for monitoring efforts to track changes in local housing conditions and progress towards meeting local housing needs, and specifically calls for instituting an annual rent and vacancy survey. 

Rent and vacancy data from the American Community Survey is considered insufficient for these monitoring efforts given the relatively low population in Tompkins County and margins of error when sampling so few households. Additionally, surveys conducted for the Housing Needs Assessment found that apartment vacancies vary depending on the size of rental properties and their locations within the county. The Landlords Association of Tompkins County (LATC) surveys of its members result in discrepancies with “official” vacancy rates, which leads to concerns about which rates municipalities use to establish housing development goals and strategies. 

With a number of apartment units recently constructed or proposed and efforts underway to address gaps in the local housing supply, Tompkins County seeks to track rent and vacancy rates for residential rental properties in a consistent manner. It is imperative that these annual surveys provide reliable data and track changes over the years regardless of who may undertake these surveys in subsequent years.

For more information, see the Attached Document