If Baltimoreans needed any further evidence that their city is trailing its suburban neighbors in almost every measure, they can find it in the Census Bureau's just-released American Housing Survey numbers.
Among its key findings:
Homeownership remains an elusive goal for many city households. Just 53 percent of city houses are owner-occupied. That compares with 69 percent in Baltimore County and 75 percent in Anne Arundel County.
Homes in the city are worth less, but remain less affordable because incomes are lower. The median value in the city was $69,634, compared with $122,776 in Baltimore County and $154,858 in Anne Arundel. But city residents paid more for their housing, as a percentage of their income, than county residents - 23 percent, compared with 19 percent.
City houses are typically smaller and older. The median size was 1,152 square feet, compared with 2,090 in the metropolitan area as a whole. The median city home was built in 1946, compared with 1965 in the Baltimore County and 1973 in Arundel.
Crime breeds flight. Twenty-eight percent of city residents complained of crime in their neighborhood -almost twice the metropolitan rate. Half of those who complained were thinking of moving to escape it.
The American Housing Survey collects housing data in 47 selected metropolitan areas on a rotating schedule. Baltimore was one of 14 metro areas studied in 1998.
The Baltimore-area data were collected in visits to 3,706 homes, a statistical representation of 920,100 occupied households in the city and five surrounding counties. However, only the city and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties are detailed separately.
The survey is done for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses some of the data to establish local fair market rents and federal rent subsidies. It is also used for corporate market studies, and for policy studies by think tanks and university researchers.
In 1998, the typical householder in the metro area was 47 years old, according to the survey. He (or she) owned his own home (69 percent), and enjoyed a household income of $41,636. He lived in a household with 2.2 people. Most (70 percent) had no children living at home.
The typical household occupied a single-family detached house valued at $127,567. The house was built in 1966, but the median family bought it in 1988 for $80,608.
The typical house had a gas-fired furnace (63 percent), but an electric water heater and stove. It had a deck, patio or balcony (86 percent) and a separate dining room (60 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of area householders (65 percent) rated their neighborhoods an 8 or better on a 10-point satisfaction scale.
People living alone made up 27.6 percent of all households (38 percent in the city) in 1998. One-third were elderly.
Almost 55 percent of the region's families had moved into their homes since 1990. It was a step up for more than half, a step down for 17 percent.
That's the broad picture. But the most telling and interesting glimpses of the Baltimore area lie in the housing survey's details.
Home ownership is a common measure of economic security and stability. In 1998, 51 percent of black householders rented the homes they lived in, compared with 31 percent of all householders.
City dwellings were more crowded than those in the counties. Living space per occupant was 451 square feet in the city, compared with 828 in Baltimore County and 774 in Arundel.
More than 30 percent of homeowners (and 70 percent of the elderly) had no mortgage. Forty-four percent had just one mortgage; 12 percent had two or more.
In Baltimore, however, only 46 percent felt that positive.
Looking at quality-of-life issues, the survey found that 13 percent of those surveyed (and 31 percent of city residents) had seen evidence of rodents in their homes in the prior three months.
Almost a quarter (24 percent) of householders in the city said there was at least one home within 100 yards of their own that had been vandalized, or left with its interior exposed. The rate was less than 5 percent in Baltimore County.
Four percent of the region's householders complained of a major accumulation of litter or junk near their houses. The rate was more than 12 percent in the city.
Of the 30 percent of households with school-age children, 58 percent were happy with their local public elementary school. Almost 9 percent were dissatisfied and 41 percent of those wanted to move to another district.
City residents were only a bit less content, and slightly more likely to want to move.
On the bright side, 91 percent of householders expressed satisfaction with their police forces - 88 percent in the city and 94 percent in Baltimore County.
Public transportation also got high marks from the 60 percent of households with access to it. Ninety-three percent of those who use it weekly found it satisfactory.