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Dec 1 -- The Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, invites public comment by January 30, 2024 regarding the proposed Building Permits Survey Program, i.e., the Report of Building or Zoning Permits Issued for New Privately-Owned Housing Units (C–404) and the Survey of Residential Building or Zoning Permit Systems (C–411).

The Census Bureau plans to request a revision of the current Office of Management and Budget clearance for the surveys known as the Survey of Residential Building or Zoning Permit Systems (C–411) and the Report of Building or Zoning Permits Issued for New Privately-Owned Housing Units (C–404). The C–411 and the C–404 are related collections sharing the same universe called the Active Governments File (AGF) universe. The C–411 is utilized to update the permit issuing status of all jurisdictions in the AGF. The C–404 is utilized to collect both monthly and annual data on the totals of new housing unit permits issued. These two surveys, currently cleared separately under control numbers 0607–0350 and 0607–0094, respectively, will therefore be combined under one control number and will be collectively called the Building Permits Survey Program.

The Census Bureau uses these surveys to produce statistics to monitor activity in the large and dynamic construction industry. These statistics help state and local governments and the Federal government, as well as private industry, to analyze this important sector of the economy. Building permits for new private housing units also are a component of The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index.

The Census Bureau uses the Form C–411 or individual questions from the form, as needed, to obtain information needed to update the universe of permit-issuing places from state and local building permit and zoning officials. Questions on the form pertain to the legal requirements for issuing building or zoning permits in the local jurisdictions. Information is obtained on such items as geographic coverage and types of construction for which permits are issued.

The universe of permit-issuing places is the sampling frame for the Building Permits Survey (BPS) and the Survey of Construction (SOC). These two sample surveys provide widely used measures of construction activity, including the monthly Principal Federal Economic Indicators Housing Units Authorized by Building Permits and Housing Starts.

For New Residential Construction (which includes Housing Units Authorized by Building Permits, Housing Starts, and Housing Completions), Form C–404 is used to collect the estimate for Housing Units Authorized by Building Permits. For New Residential Construction and Sales, the number of housing units authorized by building permits is a key component utilized in the estimation of housing units started, completed, and sold.

The Census Bureau uses Form C–404 to collect information on changes to the geographic coverage of permit-issuing places, the number and valuation of new residential housing units authorized by building permits, and additional information on residential permits valued at $2 million or more, including, but not limited to, site address and type of building. The Building Permits Survey is the only source of statistics on residential construction for states and smaller geographic areas. The Census Bureau uses the detailed geographic data collected from state and local officials on new residential construction authorized by building permits in the development of annual population estimates that are used by government agencies to allocate funding and other resources to local areas. Policymakers, planners, businesses, and others also use the detailed geographic data to monitor growth, plan for local services, and to develop production and marketing plans.

Survey of Residential Building or Zoning Permit Systems (C–411): One of three variants of the Form C–411 is sent to a jurisdiction when the Census Bureau needs to verify whether a new permit system has been established or an existing one has changed. This is based on the length of time since the jurisdiction last verified their permit issuing status, or on information the Census Bureau obtains from a variety of sources including survey respondents, regional planning councils, and data from the Census Bureau's Geography Division on newly incorporated jurisdictions. While the C–411 was previously a mailed paper form, the Census Bureau plans to add this collection to the standard online collection instrument (Centurion) in 2024.

Prior to 2022, the universe of permit issuing places was updated every 10 years. In 2012 and every ten years prior, we mailed the survey to approximately 20,000 jurisdictions that were designated in our records as non-permit issuing jurisdictions, or permit issuing jurisdictions that needed verification of coverage. In processing the 2012 survey, it was determined that it was too burdensome to the Census Bureau's staff to process all 20,000 jurisdictions in the same year. As a result, the process was spread out into 5-year intervals, starting with the mailing in 2017. In 2017, we mailed 3,500 priority jurisdictions of the potential 20,000, with the intent of mailing another priority group in 2022 to complete the 10-year collection cycle. The planned 2022 mailing was deferred. Beginning January 2023, we began updating the universe annually and as a result, we can now incorporate more frequent updates to non-permit issuing jurisdictions. Beginning in 2024 we expect to attempt to collect information from 3,150 jurisdictions annually using either the C–411(C) or C–411(M) regarding the existence of new permit-issuing systems, or to resolve coverage questions or issues concerning existing permit-issuing systems using the C–411(V). This will allow us to attempt collection on all 20,000 jurisdictions approximately every seven years, on a rotating basis.

Report of Building or Zoning Permits Issued for New Privately-Owned Housing Units (C–404): Respondents may submit their data via internet or a mailed or faxed form. Some respondents choose to report over the phone or to send proprietary files containing permit information in lieu of returning the form.

The survey universe is comprised of approximately 20,000 local governments that issue building permits. Due to resource availability and the time required to complete the data review and analysis, the Census Bureau collects data from a selection of permit-issuing jurisdictions monthly, and the remainder of the jurisdictions annually. We collect this information monthly for about approximately 8,600 permit-issuing jurisdictions. We also collect this information annually for about 11,400 permit-issuing jurisdictions.

Census BPS: https://www.census.gov/permits
Current BPS methodology: https://www.census.gov/construction/bps/methodology.html
Draft data collection instruments and technical documentation requested from Census by AEAStat.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-26473

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