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For many American households, spending on housing is eclipsed by the costs of daily transportation—especially in driveable suburbs, where auto maintenance and gas prices are a major budget concern. Communities seeking to cultivate affordable neighborhoods should consider both sets of costs as part of the same puzzle: balancing housing and transportation costs.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a partner of CNU, developed the H+T Affordability Index, which measures true neighborhood affordability by taking into account transportation costs. The H+T Index quantifies affordability in nearly 200,000 neighborhoods across the US by taking into account the combined costs of housing and transportation —providing a more complete picture of residents’ household spending.
When the H+T Index is used to compare neighborhoods, the difference can be dramatic. For example, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, combined housing and transportation spending in “location-efficient” neighborhoods, mostly walkable suburbs near downtown, amounts to 45% of household income. In less location-efficient neighborhoods further from walkable areas, combined spending averages 59.27%.
By measuring key aspects of the built environment like block size, density, and transit, and economic indicators like job access and income, the H+T Index allows citizens, planners and public officials to understand what makes places location-efficient—and see the full picture of how transportation costs impact affordability for residents.