New Website Shows Impact Of Transportation On Housing Costs

<p>A new interactive mapping website launched by the Center for Neighborhood Technology in partnership with The Brookings Institution shows how affordability changes from neighborhood to neighborhood based on housing and transportation.</p>
April 21, 2008, 6am PDT | Jill Siegel
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"When you're stuck in Beltway traffic burning $3-a-gallon gasoline to creep along at walking speed, it offers time to think. Would it be easier if I left home earlier? Would I be better off riding a train? How bad will my commute be in five years? Would life be easier and cheaper if I found a job in Pittsburgh or Nashville or some other place where the roads aren't as crowded and the homes aren't so expensive?

A new Web-based tool developed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based urban development think tank, can help put facts behind those daydreams. The CNT developed a Web site, at, that takes into account household expenditures for transportation, along with home prices, to estimate whether a home is truly affordable for households with moderate incomes.

Academics at the CNT argue that a home isn't really affordable if its location forces a household to devote an excessive amount of the family budget to transportation. How much is excessive? They say 18 percent of the area's median pretax income is typical; lowering that to 15 percent would be better. That's on top of the 30 percent of pretax income that they estimate as an affordable budget for a home's mortgage principal and interest plus property taxes and homeowners' insurance, which lenders call PITI.

With gasoline prices nearing $3.50 per gallon and Metro fares that recently increased by the largest amount in the transit system's history, keeping Washington-area transportation costs below those thresholds is only going to become more difficult.

The Web site is a data fest even by wonk standards. It's a map-based tool offering information on housing and transportation costs for 52 metropolitan areas, including the Washington-Baltimore area. You can zoom in on individual neighborhoods and pull up U.S. Census information on the percentage of neighborhood residents who use mass transit, their average monthly spending on transportation, the number of wage-earners and cars per household, and other data. The Web site also displays nearby subway and commuter rail lines and stations."

Thanks to Nicole Gotthelf

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Published on Sunday, April 13, 2008 in The Washington Post
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