Housing in the metropolitan area is far less crowded and unsanitary today than it was 10 years ago, but renters are paying considerably more for their units, a new Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments survey shows. The study of housing in the 1960s and early 1970s was based on census data.

The survey's author, W. Bruce Steele, associate chief of COG's housing programs, calls this a "significant shift" in the Capital area's housing patterns.

For example, through improvements and demolition of old dwellings, the number of units without complete plumbing facilities declined to 8,600 in 1974, compared with 30,300 units in 1960. Now hardly one dwelling in 100 lacks proper sanitation, COG said. The Census Bureau made no attempt, however, to determine the age and condition of the plumbing.

The problem of overcrowding diminished substantially during the early 1970s here. In 1974 only 0.6 per cent of all households packed in more than 1.5 persons per room, a two-thirds drop from the 19,000 severely overcrowded dwellings that existed in 1970.

Moreover, the number of families living more than one person to a room was cut nearly in half, to 33,700 in 1974. The census found only 3.4 per cent of the population living in such cramped quarters. Of these, 61 per cent were black, although only a quarter of all metropolitan households were headed by blacks.

In exchange for this upgrading and as the result of inflation and population increases, renters faced considerable increases during the same period. There was a 9 per cent increase in the number of households paying more than 25 per cent of their income for rent, HUD's generally accepted ceiling.