Between stagnating incomes and centrally-planned spillovers into housing and transportation costs, workers in this country are increasingly pressured to move to more 'all-in affordable' areas (if they can). As a recent study by the Center for Housing Policy shows, the housing and transportation cost burdens of moderate income households living in the 25 largest metro areas problem is getting worse; moderate-income households pay a disproportionate share; Moderate-income homeowners carry heavier cost burdens than renters; and the combined burden of housing and transportation costs is greatest where costs are out of sync with local incomes - not always the places with the highest absolute costs. Of course QE is designed to 'help' homeowners... and yet the middle-class continues to be squeezed.
The problem is getting worse. Housing and transportation costs rose faster than income during the 2000s, increasing the burden that these costs placed on already stretched budgets. This held true for each of the 25 largest metropolitan areas, though the disparity was greater in some areas than others. For all households, including homeowners who have paid off their mortgage, housing and transportation together consumed an average of 48 percent of the median household’s income by decade’s end.
Moderate-income households pay a disproportionate share. For households earning 50 to 100 percent of the median income of their metropolitan area, nearly three-fifths (59 percent) of income goes to housing and transportation costs. For these households, the growing costs of place1 are particularly burdensome, leaving relatively little left over for expenses such as food, education, and health care, not to mention savings.
The combined burden of housing and transportation costs is greatest where costs are out of sync with local incomes; these are not always the places with the highest absolute costs. In some metro areas, such as Washington, DC, Boston, and San Francisco, high costs are matched by relatively high incomes, helping moderateincome households better afford their housing and transportation costs. But other regions, such as Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, Miami, and Los Angeles, have moderate or even high housing and transportation costs in spite of relatively low median incomes. In these metro areas, combined cost burdens for moderate-income households are very high, with average burdens ranging from 65 to 72 percent of household income.
Transportation costs still shape differences in the overall affordability of metro areas. Six years later, it remains as important as ever to consider transportation costs along with housing prices in measuring overall affordability. The inclusion of transportation costs affects the relative affordability of many metro areas. For example, housing costs in the Houston region are comparatively affordable as a share of income, ranking eighth out of the 25 regions examined. When transportation costs are included, however, Houston drops into 17th place, as one of the less affordable regions for the combined costs of housing and transportation. In contrast, metro areas such as San Francisco, Boston, and New York are some of the least affordable regions for local moderate-income households when just housing is considered, but are among the most affordable when housing and transportation costs are considered together.
Moderate-income homeowners carry heavier cost burdens than renters. For the typical moderate-income renter, housing and transportation costs consume an average of 55 percent of income. Moderate-income homeowners carrying a mortgage face average costs of nearly 72 percent of income.
Cost burdens for moderate-income households vary substantially within metro areas. Even in metro areas where average cost burdens are relatively affordable, there are many neighborhoods that are out of reach for moderate-income households. In the Philadelphia region, for example, moderate-income households are faced with average housing and transportation costs exceeding 90 percent of their income in some neighborhoods.
Despite lower burdens than homeowners, moderate-income renters are still barely making ends meet in many metro areas. In the Los Angeles metro area, where average housing and transportation costs consume 61 percent of income for moderate-income renters, a typical renter household would not have enough left over at the end of the month to pay for food, health care, and other basic necessities. This would suggest these households are either cutting corners on essentials, or accruing debt.
And here is why people should move from Detroit and Atlanta to Pittsburgh and Seattle (click image for larger - eligible - version) as the ratio of growth-in-costs to growth-in-income for the median-income household is 4.54 in Detroit versus a 1.16 ratio in Seattle: