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The growing costs of place

by Blake Warenik, National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy

Conventional wisdom holds that metro areas like New York, San Francisco, Boston and D.C. are the most expensive places to live for average families. After all, these traditionally upmarket cities have some of the highest housing costs in the nation. But conventional wisdom is the name given to a popular idea about to be debunked; housing costs are just one part of this story. A new report from the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology draws attention to the other, often hidden, factors that contribute to a growing cost of place for American households.

Cover image from the report

The report, Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, further explores a phenomenon first covered in the seminal 2006 report A Heavy Load: The Combined Housing and Transportation Burdens of Working Families. Losing Ground draws the latest five-year data from the American Communities Survey and finds that for the average family in the 25 largest U.S. metro areas, any income gains made in the last decade have been erased—and then some—by the skyrocketing cost burden of housing and transportation combined.

Among other findings, the report notes that for every $1.00 increase in nominal income since 2000 for these families, the share of their household budgets going to housing and transportation has shot up by more than $1.75. So how are families getting by? The report includes a case study on the Los Angeles metro area, showing that a typical moderate-income renter household’s monthly expenses exceed monthly income by $328. This family must choose among dipping into savings, racking up debt or cutting corners on groceries, health care, clothing and school supplies. None of these choices is sustainable. It’s a losing proposition for families in Los Angeles and all around the country.

Read the report now

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