Spring 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW2

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Targeting Housing Information Programs


Kenneth R. Tremblay, Jr.
Associate Professor
Department of Consumer Sciences and Housing
Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Anne L. Sweaney
Assistant Professor
Department of Housing, Home
Management and Consumer Economics
University of Georgia-Athens

Eleanor Walls
Extension Housing Specialist
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Arkansas -Fayetteville

An important component of quality of life is housing that satisfies family needs. Unfortunately, suitable housing has become difficult for many families because of high interest rates, confusing mortgage alternatives, and high housing prices and rents. Extension, based on years of developing and disseminating information on housing issues, is in an excellent position to provide the housing information needed by the public.

In 1981-82, as part of a Southern Region Housing Research Project, personal interviews were completed with 1,804 households residing in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia. These households were selected by probability sampling techniques designed to produce a sample representative of the nonmetropolitan, nonfarm population in the seven states studied. Included in the personal interviews was a question measuring needs for housing information.

Participants in the personal interviews were asked: "If you wanted to modify or change your dwelling, what kinds of information would be most helpful to you?" Results showed that respondents were most in need of information about energy conservation (44.6%) and financing (37.1 %), followed by remodeling (27.6%), building methods (22.5%), insurance and taxes (21.8%), and housing maintenance (20.7%). Fewer respondents mentioned buying a house (11.1%).

Demographic characteristics were correlated with the expressed housing information needs. Results showed that different segments of the population varied in their needs for housing information. Those respondents who were employed full-time, were male, rented their home, or were nonwhite expressed a greater need for all types of housing information than did their counterparts.

Differences also existed in specific housing information needs. Younger and middle-income respondents expressed the greatest need for information on energy conservation, younger and nonwhite respondents for financing, middle-age respondents and those living in large households for remodeling, those living in modular or mobile homes for building methods, renters for insurance and taxes, middleaged respondents and renters for housing maintenance, and those renting an apartment for buying a house.

Based on these results, we concluded that: (1) respondents were receptive to knowledge and ideas about methods of acquiring better housing, (2) information about energy conservation and financing was most desired by study participants, and (3) a variety of demographic characteristics influenced housing information needs. Therefore, Extension must carefully identify what types of housing information are most needed by clients and then develop a program to deliver the appropriate information to those who need it most. Any Extension housing information program should:

  • Focus on the preparation and distribution of information on energy conservation and financing, with secondary efforts directed at remodeling, building methods, insurance and taxes, housing maintenance, and buying a house.
  • Direct different types of housing information to the segments of the population that need it most.
  • Provide housing information that is free or lowcost, readily accessible, and understandable to family members (given the characteristics of those most in need of housing information).