The classic rule of thumb, “drive ‘till you qualify,” holds that the farther you go from a city center, the cheaper the cost of living. But a new report shows how in the DC area, housing near the core and near transit stations can be cheaper when transportation costs are factored in.
The Office of Planning worked with the Center for Neighborhood Technology to customize their “H+T” housing and transportation index for our region, and to incorporate more recent American Community Survey data as well as Census data.
Along the western Red Line corridor in Montgomery County or the Orange Line in Arlington, for instance, housing is fairly expensive, often exceeding 30% of Area Median Income, the standard threshold for “affordability.” After studying metro areas across the nation, with excellent transit infrastructure or none at all, they determined that 15% of AMI was a good threshold for reasonable transportation costs.
Some areas have housing costs below the 30% threshold, but when adding in transportation, the total housing plus transportation exceeds 45% (shown in red below). In other areas, mostly in DC and Arlington, housing costs are higher than 30%, but the low transportation cost pulls the total down below 45% (green):
Change in H+T cost. Red areas: Housing < 30% of AMI but H+T > 45%. Green: Housing > 30% of AMI but H+T < 45%. Image from CNT.