Chart of the Day: Housing Types for Different US Cities

Via Wonkblog, here’s a chart that shows what the housing stock of different US cities looks like (from single-family and mobile homes all the way to big apartment towers). While Minneapolis and Saint Paul aren’t on it, you can imagine that they’d be somewhere in between Kansas City/Detroit and Seattle on this spectrum (given when most of the city was developed, and its economic growth since then, etc.).

(For example, check out Milwaukee! It must be close enough to Chicago that far more duplexes were constructed there. And look at how much Philadelphia and Baltimore have in common, which totally makes sense if you think about it.)


Things are changing, though, as Wonkblog says:

As this chart shows, there are a lot of options between the traditional single-family home and the tower. And there are few cities in America — including those with conspicuously rising housing costs — that don’t have room in the mix for more of them.

Seattle, for one, has been reassessing this summer all the land it has historically protected for single-family homes in an effort to create more affordable housing. Seattle has, in fact, a greater share of that kind of housing than Los Angeles. (This debate, though, is not going well, since political power in cities also tends to accrue to the left end of this housing spectrum.)

I wonder what the trend lines would be if Minneapolis were added to this list? is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

7 Responses to Chart of the Day: Housing Types for Different US Cities

  1. Steven December 15, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    I would expect us to be closer to Milwaukee than to Kansas City (with very few duplexes and triplexes) on this table.

    It would be interesting to add a second data set showing average parking spaces per unit associated with each housing type in each city. According to the table, Philadelphia has about 30% single attached homes, which, because of their age, make for dense urban living with little off-street parking. Contrast that with the row houses found in Shakopee, with a significant amount of the building devoted to parking and development standards that are not very urban.

    Perhaps a simpler measure would be acres per unit type in each city.

  2. Alex Cecchini
    Alex Cecchini December 15, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    No need to speculate on Minneapolis/St Paul, Alex Bauman put this together 🙂

    • Alex December 15, 2015 at 11:23 pm #

      Thanks Alex, for saving me the trouble of either finding that on twitter somehow or uploading it again 🙂

      This stuff comes from the American Community Survey, so is easy to find in all sorts of geographies. For example, the US as a whole is about 62% single-family detached, or Kansas City, Memphis, Albuquerque, and San Antonio. Minnesota is 67% single-family detached, off the chart. Massachusetts is 52% single-family detached, between Long Beach and Seattle. Fun with numbers!

  3. Alex Schieferdecker
    Alex Schieferdecker December 16, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    This is a great explainer for the “missing middle” of housing types.

    • Steve December 17, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      Agreed, a real eye-opener for my Uptowncentric viewpoint. Imagine what replacing R1A with R2or R3 would do in many parts of the City (the new ADU gets you partway there).

  4. Josh Williams December 17, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

    I wonder if the substantially higher percentage of rowhouses in Philly and Baltimore reflects the fact that they have seen substantially less investment (I would guess) relative to other large east coast cities like NYC and DC.

    • Steve December 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

      Don’t know about Baltimore but Philadelphia is probably a function of the historic geography of the city: Penn laid it out in large blocks, so 18th century development was already building multiple homes on individual blocks and row houses were what they built. 19th century development followed the pattern in place (and added row house infill to many of the alleys). Until the 1980s no building in center city could be higher than Ben Franklin on City Hall, so there was less economic pressure to tear down the old buildings (because it was hard to build big enough to make it work economically).

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