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The Housing & Transportation Affordability Index
Alex Steffen, 25 Jul 06

file.jpg How much does your house really cost? Most of us are used to writing our rent or mortgage checks and thinking we've paid for our homes, but a lot of us are starting to realize there's more to the story. Green building, for instance, has taken off so quickly in part because many of us are recognizing that how much we pay on our power, water, gas, food and garbage bills is determined (to greater and lesser degrees) by the design of our house.

Now more of us are starting to realize that how much we pay for transportation is determined largely by the location of our homes, so much so that researchers have created a "Housing and Transportation Affordability Index":

Transportation costs are a significant part of the average household budget. The average transportation expenditures for the median income household in the US in 2003 was 19.1%—the highest expenditure after housing. The Center for Transit-Oriented Development's Affordability Index recognizes this fact: living in a particular location is implicitly associated with transportation costs to get to that location.
Using the Twin Cities as its pilot location, this tool integrates housing and transportation costs into a single measure, correcting a pervasive information gap. The index will help local and regional planners understand the housing costs and "location costs" of building housing and transportation. Potential home buyers and renters, finance agencies, public and private-sector real estate developers, housing lenders, and secondary market actors can use the index to better understand the full cost of the homes they purchase.

In other words, access by proximity makes your house less expensive: living in a place with a healthy walkshed saves you money, and may be one of the most effective means we have for battling climate change. As we've said before, the solutions to the problems cars create will not all be found under the hood.

(image by TT; thanks to Justus for the link)

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An excellent article. True home cost must factor in a host of variables, including transportation, heating/cooling, grounds and building maintenance, possible exposure to health threats, etc. The need to rely on auto travel for work, school, shopping, etc. is one of the major hidden costs of suburban living. There should be a legal requirement to factor in transportation costs in the disclosure of concerns in a realestate transaction.

Posted by: Ray Bane on 26 Jul 06

On a related note, the state of Illinois recently passed a bill that limits tax incentives to businesses to those that provide jobs near affordable housing and/or public transit. It's an excellent example of living wage meets smart growth.

Posted by: Evan Paul on 31 Jul 06



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