A September housing report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is making the rounds this week after The Washington Post published its findings on the Monday holiday. The Post gave it a 100-proof headline: “It’s more expensive to live in D.C. than New York, study says.”
According to “Housing: Before, During, and After the Great Recession,” Washington, D.C., is the most expensive place to live in the country. These findings aren’t new (and they certainly aren’t news to anyone living in the District), but this graphic appears to explain how the nation’s capital costs so much for its residents.
Yet tabulating mean housing costs doesn’t totally capture the true value of a place. I don’t mean value in some squishy sense of the word, as in that it’s worth it to love the place you call home. No, the price of housing alone simply doesn’t translate into affordability, in part because household incomes tend to be higher in those places where housing costs more. That’s why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development created the Location Affordability Index, which finds that, when you factor in transportation costs, annual vehicle miles traveled, and so on, the cities of San Francisco, New York, and D.C. start to look a lot more affordable–for high-income earners, anyway.
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