Penny Wise, Pound Fuelish: New Measures of Housing + Transportation Affordability

In an effort to bring the American dream of homeownership to more people, our society has enabled and encouraged growth in places where low land costs deliver relatively inexpensive housing but where sprawling, single-use development adds significantly to the cost of carrying out the daily tasks of getting to work or school, running errands and enjoying an evening out. Unlike house payments, transportation costs are difficult to track because they are paid in disaggregated ways: monthly car payments, semi-annual insurance premiums, weekly ¿ll-up at the pump and periodic maintenance. As a result, Americans only grasp the magnitude of these expenses after committing to a community.

This release of Housing and Transportation (H+T SM) Affordability Index data for 337 metro regions is momentous because it allows people to preview transportation costs for 161,600 neighborhoods in the United States and provides proof that particular patterns of development can significantly reduce household travel costs. The Index demonstrates that the way in which urban regions have grown in the last half century has had negative consequences for many Americans.