Housing Complex

D.C.: The Most Affordable City in America!

That's the conclusion reached in a new report by the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Of the 25 largest metro areas in the country, the capital region places the lowest housing and transportation burden on its residents:

Streetsblog explains how this came to pass:

One key detail: The new study defines “moderate incomes” differently for each metro area, looking at households earning between 50 and 100 percent of that area’s median income. So in Miami, a “moderate income” ranges between $25,444 and $50,888; in D.C., it’s $44,531 to $89,063.

In the lowest-ranking cities – after Miami, it’s Riverside, California; then Tampa, Los Angeles and San Diego – incomes simply weren’t high enough to offset the expense of housing and transportation. For example, even though Miami’s housing and transportation costs ranked slightly lower than average, its low incomes inflated the burden of those costs. ...

In expensive cities like D.C., Boston, and San Francisco, higher incomes helped cushion the shock. In all three cities, housing costs were higher than average – in D.C., transportation prices were also notably higher – yet those costs consumed a lower fraction of total income.

I'd throw in one additional x-factor. The five "most-burdened" cities all have warm climates, and most have good beaches. The five "least-burdened" have cold winters (with the semi-exception of San Francisco) and, in the case of No. 1 D.C., oppressively hot and humid summers; none has easy access to swimmable beaches. People pay extra for quality of life, above and beyond the usual income/cost balance.

  • Typical DC BS

    Just by seeing San Francisco listed as one of the "Least Burdened" for Moderate Income Renters leads me to doubt the results here. Lived there for a few years recently and can state that is a ridiculous assertion. I made 6 figures there and left because it was a LOT more affordable here in the DC area.

  • D

    Your "x-factor" conclusion is incredibly simplistic and off the mark. It makes it seem like you didn't read the report. DC's transportation costs are around the average of the warm climate places you listed, but unlike those places, here you have the option of living closer in (or near transit) to significantly reduce your transportation costs. That pushes up housing costs in those neighborhoods, but luckily there are plenty of good paying jobs in the area that more than make up for the difference, as shown on page 10 of the report.

    Besides, why would Atlanta be on the list of "most-burdened" cities if folks were paying a premium for good beaches and mild summers?

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    again, metro areas ≠ the cities at their core.

    this report focuses on the former, not the latter.

    please, please, please, make sure to note this in your headlines and your writing. you're oversimplifying the case (and in some cases, coming to incorrect conclusions) if you don't.

  • ToTheContrary

    Very difficult to believe. I find DC to be EXTREMELY expensive.

  • Pingback: The indispensable CFO?

  • Ryan

    The article is misleading. Affordability should take into account cost of living, and Washington DC is among the highest costs of living in the nation. Just because rent may be affordable doesn't mean that everything is.

  • from my thumb to your eyes


    DC also has one of the highest median salaries and household incomes in the country as well. It is also one of the most educated county as well.

  • lesingemechant

    this is NOT CORRECT and it's HARMFUL message.

    1) a 30-50% housing burden to household with $250K annual income is very different than for a household with $80K income.

    2) one of the primary reasons for homelessness is lack of affordable housing. family homelessness in dc has increased by 73% since 2008.


    3) if middle income people cannot afford the rent or to buy a home in d.c. any longer just imagine what it's like for low-income people!

  • http://westnorth.com Payton

    The weather hypothesis has been tested, and doesn't hold. Riverside and Atlanta have even worse climates than here, and I despise sticky summers.

    I wouldn't call this a "HARMFUL message," either -- seems like a lot of commenters were taken in by the contrarian conclusion, and didn't read anything else. It's not a study of "lowest apartment rents." It's a study looking at how much a typical (i.e., just below median income) household earns and spends on two basic needs (housing AND transportation). The study makes no claims about affordability for low-income residents -- and honestly, people who are on the verge of homelessness are going to have a rough time affording housing anywhere. Even in Rust Belt cities with incredibly cheap housing, housing quality is a huge problem (housing is so cheap, landlords have no incentive to fix up houses) and jobs are far scarcer than they are here.