This week we’ve gotten two seemingly conflicting pictures of affordability in Atlanta.
First we have this story: Atlanta No. 2 most affordable housing market, wherein we learn that “Atlanta ranks second in the U.S. among the top 25 metro areas in terms of home affordability.”
Next up, we have this one: Study: Atlanta’s housing and transportation costs outpacing incomes, telling us that Metro Atlantans “spend 63 percent of their income on housing and transportation” which is “worse than the national average” of 59%.
These reports seem to tell two different stories about the costs of living in Atlanta. What’s the deal? Robert Hickey at the Center for Housing Policy posts this on the NHC Open House Blog:
Where you live affects how much—or how little—you will need to spend traveling to work, getting to school, doing errands, and making all the other trips that are part of the weekly routine. It’s not truly “affordable,” then, if your rent or mortgage are low, but your location means you have to own one or more cars and drive so much that the cost of car ownership and gas negates these housing savings.
That’s why it’s increasingly important to look at housing and transportation costs together when measuring the affordability of an area. And the clearest picture comes when you look at pockets within a metro or a city and ask questions such as: “does this neighborhood have places one can easily walk to?” and “Is it well connected to transit?”
Metro Atlanta has pockets of walkable density and also pockets (much larger ones, yes) of car-dependent sprawl. And within those pockets are variations of housing costs.
Generalizations about affordability in Atlanta are only informative on a broad level. For better information, it’s the details that matter.
Photo from Flickr user Transportation for America