Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
In the typical definition of housing affordability, your rent or mortgage would be a third, or less, of your income. And by that standard, some 76 percent of neighborhoods are affordable. But when you add in transportation costs, the results are jarring: fewer than a third of American neighborhoods -- just 28 percent -- are affordable.
Those results come by way of a new analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago -- and they're significantly worse than results CNT published a year ago -- which looked at older data, and a smaller sample size. In the older study, 69 percent of homes were affordable, based on 2000 census data under the narrower definition, while 39 percent were affordable adding in transportation costs.
"It's very stark," said the CNT's Scott Bernstein, who spoke of traveling through the country and seeing "entire subdivisions that got built and were never occupied, or are empty because people moved out."
For the last five years, on average, Bernstein says 200,000 families moved in with another family.
And these figures don't take into account recent spikes in gas prices.
The data also show what a profound difference good transit makes to transportation costs. In the New York-New Jersey region, the average transportation costs is $10,158 a year. But in areas with good transit, that number plummets to $1985. Areas with the least access to transit cost $19,003 a year.
In Houston, the range is $7958 on the low end, and $19181 on the high end. In Orlando, it's $9203 and $17705.
And in San Francisco/Oakland, it's $5368 and $19709.
You can see a ranking of metro areas, by transportation costs, here.