August 30, 2011

Getting There: When it Comes to Housing Affordability, Transportation Counts

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As I prepared to head to Washington for grad school a few years back, I had visions of city living dancing in my head. Eager to start a new chapter of my life as a 20-something urbanite, I couldn’t wait to find a cute apartment in one of the city’s more bustling neighborhoods. It didn’t take long for me to learn what homeowners and renters alike know all too well: City living is expensive.

So, hoping to save some cash on rent, I made a reluctant move to Rockville, Maryland, about 10 miles northwest of DC’s core, where the rents were cheaper. Living there, I learned another lesson – one HUD is taking to heart: Cost of living has to do with a whole lot more than what you spend on your mortgage or shell out for rent.

A train ride downtown from my old place ran me about $4 during rush hour. Taking the train twice a day, five days a week, I was spending $40 weekly just to get into town. When I did the math, I realized I probably could have moved into the city, saved myself a good chunk of my train fare, and my total cost of living would’ve been about the same.

Most anyone who puts together a monthly budget could tell you that an area’s affordability has to do with so many things besides a monthly mortgage or rent payment. HUD knows that too. That’s why we’re teaming up with The Manhattan Strategies Group, LLC and the Center for Neighborhood Technology to deliver Americans a groundbreaking Housing and Transportation Affordability Index. This index will better capture locales’ affordability, offering a more rigorous representation of the real cost of living in a given region.

Traditionally, housing affordability indices don’t include a measure for transportation costs – the second biggest household expense behind housing itself. The creation of a Housing and Transportation Affordability Index is just one way HUD is working to transform the way we do business to better serve the people and policy makers who look to us when making housing choices and investment decisions.

To read HUD’s full press release, click here.

2 Responses to Getting There: When it Comes to Housing Affordability, Transportation Counts

  1. Fabulous idea. When is this Index going to be released? It should have a major impact on improving transit-oriented development for areas where commuting costs are out of control. Maryland/D.C. has to be one of the top expensive commuter areas on the list, as you realized!

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