H+T Index Data Informs Grand Rapids Report on Homelessness

Roofs-to-Roots-smA new report by the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness uses CNT’s Housing + Transportation Affordability Index (H+TSM Index) data to illustrate the dearth of affordable housing in the region. The report, part of the coalition’s decade-long plan to end homelessness, aims to re-shape how leaders in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, think about and address homelessness.

Highlighting the impact of transportation costs on affordability, the report incorporates CNT’s first ever rural analysis of housing and transportation costs for Grand Rapids and eight nearby counties, including Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Ottawa.

CNT found that in rural, dispersed areas of the region, households can spend roughly $200 a month more on transportation costs than similar income households in urbanized areas. Convenient access to jobs, retail, and transit allow residents in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Holland to maintain lower average transportation costs.

Based on CNT’s measure of affordability — households spend 45 percent or less on housing and transportation costs — average costs throughout the eight-county region were unaffordable for households in western Michigan that make 50 percent of the average median income (AMI). The H+T Index showed that these households spend an average of 60 percent or more of their income toward housing and transportation.

These findings provide new insight into the region’s homelessness problem by bringing transportation into the discussion. In the report, the Grand Rapids coalition calls for better coordination and collaboration between the region’s housing and transportation systems. The report authors also recommend increasing the access and availability of public transit to reduce transportation costs, which would provide more affordable housing options in the area.

The H+T Index currently provides average housing and transportation costs for 337 metro areas across the country — covering 80 percent of the U.S. population. CNT plans to expand the H+T Index to other rural areas throughout the country in early 2011.