How much would it cost to move from the suburbs into downtown Washington? Or how much could you save if you could ditch the car and start walking to work?
A new Web site unveiled Tuesday by federal officials hopes to answer these and other questions often faced by individuals or families trying to figure out where to live, how to get around and what they can afford.
The free tool, which was announced by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, is meant to “give people a sense of the true cost of living in a neighborhood,” Foxx said during a conference call with reporters.
“By adding transportation to the housing equation, this tool will help families all across the country make better decisions about where to live and work and how to commute,” he said.
The Location Affordability Portal has a transportation cost calculator that lets people know how much they would spend on transportation and housing each month — and lets people see how the costs would change if they altered their commuting habits or moved to a different area.
So how would this be useful for you? Here’s one example. Let’s say a family of four rents a home at the intersection of 14th and Irving streets NW in Columbia Heights. Let’s also say that this household earns the median household income for that zip code ($60,026 annually, according to the nifty widget atop this story). We’ll assume two people commute to work from this home, and that they don’t have cars. And we’ll use the built-in estimates for housing costs ($1,199 a month, according to the tool) and transit costs ($156 — again, according to the tool).
This fictional household’s total monthly transportation and housing costs are $16,260, according to this tool — less than what the model says the average household with these figures would spend:
Of course, that home would be in a central area easily reached by lots of public transit (including Metro, buses, Capital Bikeshare and walkable sidewalks).
What if one of the people in this home had to start driving to work? Using the average gas price Tuesday ($3.37 in the District, according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report), assuming the person drives a 2007 Volvo that gets 22 miles per gallon and using the tool’s guess for monthly vehicle costs ($307) and miles driven per month (831), the costs rise to $21,936 — more than the cost for a similar household.
You could also use this to see how much your costs would change if you moved to a different area, something that could be helpful for people considering where to live in the expensive Washington region.
In addition, the new Web site also has a “Location Affordability Index” meant to help planners, legislators and developers. Foxx said this portal should “be a valuable resource” for policy makers, planners and others, while Donovan said that they do expect the tool will also be used by the private sector.
The tool will be available in Spanish in the near future, Donovan said.