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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis November 2, 2012
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Moderate Incomes ‘Losing Ground’
Special to Passenger Transport
A new report by the Center for Housing Policy (CHT) and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) finds that Americans with moderate incomes have seen their transportation and housing costs jump 44 percent since 2000. In the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, these households spend an average of 59 percent of their income on these two items, affecting their ability to cover other expenses such as food, healthcare, and education.
The report, titled Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, portrays the challenges families and individuals face as the twin costs of transportation and housing consume an increasingly larger share of household incomes. 
Newly available data allowed researchers to assess the impact on combined costs of the rapid rise and fall of home prices during the 2000s, the recent rebound in rents, and the nation’s increased suburbanization over the past decade.
“If we really want to understand whether housing is affordable, we need to consider housing and transportation costs together,” said CHP Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. “Along with utilities, which we include within housing costs, these are the true ‘costs of place’ and our report shows they have grown much faster than incomes since 2000.”
Researchers found the highest cost burdens in the Miami area, where moderate-income households spend 72 percent of their income on housing and transportation. The next highest burdens are in Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, 69 percent; Tampa, FL, 66 percent; and the Los Angeles area, 65 percent. A middle-income household for the purposes of this study is one earning between 50 and 100 percent of each metro area’s median income.
The report lists policy options that elected officials at the state and local levels can adopt to help reduce these costs and move these expenses to more manageable levels. These include creating and preserving affordable housing near job centers, public transit stations, and other locations described as “location-efficient” areas, and making public investments to ensure that transportation is lower in the future, among others.
“Given the substantial increases that we expect in coming years in the demand for housing within walking distance of public transit, it will be essential to act proactively to ensure that affordable housing is preserved and included within new development in these areas,” said CNT President and Co-Founder Scott Bernstein.
Bernstein said the public needs to factor in a range of elements when trying to figure out the true costs of living in different communities. 
“Both housing and transportation costs need to be more affordable,” he said. “Letting the public know that the full cost of a location includes both housing and transportation is a first step; targeting resources that lower the cost of transportation, such as improved public transportation, to areas where it will help America’s families, is also essential.” 
The text of the report is available here.
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