Understanding the True Cost of Place

Date: July 9, 2014
Category: News

The need for affordable housing extends beyond meeting the needs of individual homebuyers and renters. It goes beyond the need of diversifying the local housing market. It is a concern that correlates with numerous economic and community development issues, one of which is transportation.

The most commonly accepted definition of affordable housing is provided by HUD, which states housing is affordable when it costs no more than 30 percent of a household’s monthly income; this encompasses all housing-related expenses including rent/mortgage, insurance, and utility bills. But when you consider other essential living costs, is this an accurate definition?

According to the National Housing Conference and the Center for Housing Policy, the answer is no. Their report, Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, finds the average moderate-income household spends nearly 60 percent of their income on housing and transportation needs.

“If we really want to understand whether housing is affordable, we need to consider housing and transportation costs together,” explains Center for Housing Policy Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. “Along with utilities, which we include within housing costs, these are the true costs of place…”

When taking into account the additional cost of transportation, the issue of affordability becomes much greater, especially among low-income households who find themselves struggling to meet other essential monthly expenses, such as food, clothing, health insurance, and child care.

The issue of transportation and affordability is exacerbated by the reality that many people are forced to move away from the city center and employment hub in order to afford a home. When workers cannot afford to live near their jobs, they must move out to areas that their incomes can support. As a result, commute times become longer, costs of commuting become higher, traffic congestion becomes even worse, and concerns of urban sprawl are multiplied.

While there are many solutions to the transportation issue, the one presented by community development professionals is clear and immediate: create housing that is located near employment opportunities and affordable to all income levels. Not only is this solution easier to define, it is likely to be approved by the majority, including those who are directly impacted by the decision.

Let’s make cost of place truly affordable.

CLF works to increase the stock of affordable housing in underserved communities across the state. For more information on our loan program, please contact Patrick King at patrick@sccommunityloanfund.org.

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