How much does housing and transportation cost your family each month? These two items are typically a family’s largest expenses. Together they take up almost half of the average household’s budget, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). How does your family’s housing and transportation costs compare to the rest of the region? And how would living in a different neighborhood or commuting in different ways affect your monthly budget? A new tool is designed to help you find out.
On November 13, HUD and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) launched the Location Affordability Portal, a database of average housing and transportation costs in neighborhoods across the country. The tool also includes a calculator that allows users to see how their average costs would change if they changed commuting habits or moved to a different area.
The tool marks an important collaboration between HUD and DOT and underscores the connection between housing and transportation when families decide where to live. Housing costs like mortgage payments and rent are often simple to calculate, but transportation costs are less so. Variables like changes in gas prices and public transportation fares or more intangible factors like access to transit and street connectivity can be difficult for families to monetize. A miscalculation of these costs over time can leave families financially unprepared for unforeseen events or from adequately saving for retirement or other expenses. The new tool provides tools that combine the cost estimates to give families a clearer picture of how these costs impact their household budget.
“The costs of transportation now approach or exceed those of housing for many working families, yet federal definitions of housing affordability fail to recognize their interdependence,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “This index will serve to make transparent the costs of living in a given location, and inform consumers and businesses about their choices in real-time, so they can make intelligent decisions about how to combine transportation and housing choices to lower their cost burdens.”
The new website also features a series of vignettes, or fictional narratives that illustrate how families and policymakers can use the tool to make more informed decisions about where to live, work and invest. These stories show examples of the tools in action, providing users with a clear picture of how a typical household might use the portal to calculate their combined costs and consider changing their behaviors and decisions accordingly.
The Location Affordability Portal is an initiative of the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, water and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money, and reduce pollution.