The record number of home foreclosures in the Washington, D.C. metro area has local Census officials worried about the 2010 count.

It’s a concern that was nonexistent in previous counts in 2000 and 1990, but now Census officials are concerned that home foreclosures, even more than the migration of people across the Prince George’s County-Washington, D.C. line, is the major issue this year.

“People move, that’s just a fact of life,” said Maurice Henderson, director of DC Counts. “There’s constant data collection so we get a fairly accurate snapshot of how many people are in the ebbs and flows in growth and decrease in population. A better question is how does the foreclosure rate affect the count nationally and here in the district?”

That question may be a pertinent one given the statistics. According to RealtyTrac, Maryland was 12th nationally in the number of foreclosures, and Washington D.C., as a city, had more foreclosed homes than 10 states.

The people in those homes have to go somewhere and Census officials are concerned about where they are going.

“A person might’ve lived at the 1400 block of U St. and they lost their home. Where do they live now?” Henderson asked. “We have to figure out if they’re living with a relative now in Southeast, Southwest, or somewhere else.”

One of the major concerns that officials have are the laws that allow a set amount of people to live in a certain place of residence at any given time.

“Let’s just say your uncle, for example, with his two children, lost his place of residence and moved in with you,” said Henderson. “You’re in a home that has a restriction because of whatever program you’re using. Now your uncle and his two kids are living with you, your wife and your two kids and now there are more people in the house than legally are supposed to be there.”

That hypothetical situation is one that’ll be faced everywhere in the country where the foreclosure rate may be high, but what Census officials want citizens to know is that information will not be made available to authorities.

“All we want to know is how many people live in the house,” said Henderson. “We’re not going to report the information of how many people live in the house back to the agency that’s in charge of your housing.

“That’s the story that needs to be told to those folks because otherwise, they will not be counted in the Census unless they take a proactive step of going out and filling out a form independent of their address.”

Henderson says the onus is now on homeowners, who take in family members, to understand that receiving an accurate count is all the Census Bureau is concerned with.

“The Census Bureau does not care who’s there or their legal status,” he said. “The Bureau doesn’t care if the room is supposed to have six people and it has 20. It just needs to know how many people reside in that space.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO