Expanded H + T Index Most Comprehensive Snapshot of Neighborhood Affordability

Or as one of our esteemed colleagues, Kaid Benfied @ NRDC said, it the “most important analysis of land use you’ll see all year”.

Of the many reviews of CNT’s recent release of the H + T expansion for 337 metros in the U.S., we thought Transportation for America’s conclusion that our research “turns the conventional wisdom about affordable housing on its head”, hit it on the head.

Indeed, our goal is to challenge and redefine the traditional measure of affordability used by planners, lenders, and most consumers.

CNT’s intensive analysis shows that only 2 out of 5 communities in the U.S. are affordable when transportation costs are added to the traditional measure of affordability.

The Index is providing a tangible quantifier that perhaps helps to explain a growing sentiment in America.  “People are tired of long commutes, they’re tired of congestion, and having transportation options is becoming an increasingly viable political option in some of these areas.”  That’s according to Andrea Bernstein, of NPR’s The Takeaway.

Triple Pundit recognizes even more linkages: “These costs are not just financial. More miles driven means more CO2 in the atmosphere, and more pollution in general. They also mean less time spent with loved ones, or doing something else, whether work or play.”

Adding it all Up

CNT’s comprehensive data is providing decision-makers with valuable information that helps explain a renewed desire in America to live where we work and work where we shop, as observed recently in The New York Times.  Most importantly, it is laying a foundation for undoing one-dimensional policies that have encouraged “drive til you qualify” growth patterns in the name of “affordability”.

Real estate professionals right away recognized the void.  According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “In interviews Tuesday, local real estate professionals said that while most prospective buyers place a premium on location and convenience, they rarely do the math on transportation expenses.  Linda Carnevali, regional manager for Prudential Preferred Realty, said in 23 years she had never seen a prospective buyer compute transportation costs.”

The Washington Post recognized CNT’s implicit policy goals. “The report was issued two months after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a shift in federal transportation policy to put greater emphasis on non-automotive options, including mass transit and better bike paths and walkways.”

What do we do with this “data-fest”?

We have released the H + T Index and accompanying Penny Wise Pound Fuelish at a critical juncture.  Just as the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities broadens the federal definition of affordability to include transportation, the Illinois General Assembly votes on a Housing + Transportation Affordability statute requiring state agencies to take housing and transportation costs into consideration when making public investments in urban areas, and CNT and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) finish Driving: A Hard Bargain, an analysis of H + T costs in the Chicago region (available soon).

The H+T Index fills a critical gap in information and has broad implications for public policy and program investments.

At its most basic level, the Index highlights the need for:

  • A new standard of housing affordability;
  • Better coordination between housing, transportation and land use agencies and decisions;
  • Public transportation investments to be screened for their impact on the overall affordability of housing projects;
  • Investments in housing developments screened for their impact on household transportation costs;
  • Mass transit investments instead of highway expansions; and
  • A broader transit oriented development strategy predicated upon a range of housing types and price points.

Read more about our specific recommendations at the end of Penny Wise Pound Fuelish.

Read more about the H + T release in the H + T Press Room.

2 Responses to “Expanded H + T Index Most Comprehensive Snapshot of Neighborhood Affordability”

  1. Linda Wheaton Says:

    Regarding the excerpted statement below and the hyperlink to HR 4690 Liveable Comm. Act of 2010… how does that bill change the federal def. of affordability (dont see it in the TOC)?

    ” . . .Just as the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities broadens the federal definition of affordability to include transportation, . . . “

  2. annette Says:

    Linda – HR 4690 as currently written directs the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD to “conduct a study on the development of a housing location affordability index that includes housing and transportation costs” and the ways in which that index “could be made available to the public”, and that a report on this study will be made available to the relevant Committees in the House and Senate within a year. Here’s the excerpt from HR 4690 (see http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-4690):

    (d) Report on Housing Location Affordability Index-
    (1) STUDY- The Director shall conduct a study on–
    (A) the development of a housing location affordability index that includes housing and transportation costs; and
    (B) ways in which the affordability index described in subparagraph (A) could be made available to the public to inform consumers of the combined costs of housing and transportation.

    (2) REPORT- Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director shall submit to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives a report on the study under paragraph (1).

    Also, refer to the following two press releases from HUD and DOT, which explain how the partnership will seek to redefine affordability (the press releases appear to be identical):
    http://www.dot.gov/affairs/dot3209.htm
    http://www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr09-023.cfm

    As Shawn Donovan announced – on the day that he and Ray LaHood announced the HUD/DOT Sustainable Communities Parnership last year (before EPA joined in) – “We will work to jointly develop, with the Department of Transportation, a housing and transportation affordability index. This index will serve to make transparent the costs of living in a given location, and inform consumers and businesses about their choices in real-time, so they can make intelligent decisions about how to combine transportation and housing choices to lower their cost burdens.”