March 27, 2012

Infrastructure Investments Can Help Alleviate Housing and Transportation Costs for Middle Class Families

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As President Obama often says, “this is a make or break moment for the middle class” and for those who are working hard to reach it. The American middle class is beginning to recover from the economic crisis. The economy has added private sector jobs for two straight years, for a total of over 3.9 million jobs during that period. In the last 12 months, 2.2 million private sector jobs were added on net; and  in the last 6 months, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, the most of any 6 month period in nearly 6 years.

It’s clear the economy is moving in the right direction.  Nonetheless, President Obama believes we can do more to help restore the economic security of the American middle class; especially when you consider that the average American family spends more on transportation costs than food and that the average working family spends more than 50 percent of their income on housing and transportation costs alone. For 90 percent of Americans, transportation costs absorb one out of every seven dollars of income.

To help American middle class families save money on transportation and housing – and create jobs – the President’s FY 2013 Budget proposes a bold plan to renew and expand America’s infrastructure.  The plan includes $50 billion for up-front investment connected to a $476 billion six-year re-authorization of the surface transportation program.  In a study released last week, the Treasury Department details how the investments in transportation will create more middle class jobs. In fact, 80 percent of the jobs created would be in the construction sector, the manufacturing sector, and the retail and whole sale trade sectors – 90 percent of these jobs will have middle class wages.

And the long term impact of the transportation investment is its commitment to creating more sustainable communities. Today, traffic congestion on our roads results in 1.9 billion gallons of gas wasted per year, and costs drivers more than $100 billion in wasted fuel and lost time.

The Housing and Transportation Affordability Index has estimated that between 2000 and 2009, a median income household living in neighborhoods with diverse transportation choices and regional accessibility saved $200 per month in transportation costs, compared to similar households in other areas with fewer choices.

The coordination of housing and development near infrastructure investments helps to achieve greater return on both housing and transportation investments, and helps to increase access to regional employment opportunities. That’s why HUD has requested $100 million in FY 2013 to renew the Sustainable Community Grants; which help urban and rural communities and regions to plan for a better integration of housing and transportation options as well as spur economic development. The grants are part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which is an association between HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joining the federal government with local partners in taking a pragmatic, regional approach to problem solving that supports local leadership, local resources, and local innovation.

The infrastructure investments proposed by the President will create more livable communities for working Americans and provide more transportation choices that will help reduce transportation costs, reduce our dependency on oil, improve air quality, and improve public health.

For more information on the President’s proposed transportation investments and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s report, please visit http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/economic-policy/Documents/20120323InfrastructureReport.pdf and for more information on the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, please visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/sustainable_housing_communities.

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