Thursday, July 14, 2005

Driven to spend: Pumping dollars out of our households and communities

The upward spiral of housing costs is in the news just about every day, and nearly everyone is complaining about rising gasoline costs. But for most of us, those are separate topics, and we need to put them together to understand the full impact on families and communities.

When expenditures on housing and transportation are combined, Tampa and Miami are the least affordable of the 28 major metropolitan statistical areas tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the Tampa area, 57.7% of household expenditures go to housing and transportation costs; in Miami, the rate is 57.5%.

When transportation costs are taken into account, several of the places with the highest median home values -- San Francisco, Boston and New York -- aren’t the most expensive places to live. It’s no coincidence that those three metro areas have extensive transit systems.

The overlooked cost of transportation has a magnified impact on lower-income households (not poverty-level families, but those earning less than the median $52,273) -- and a ripple effect on our communities and their futures.

When a family with a limited budget spends more on gas, there’s less to spend on food, household goods and other purchases that benefit the local economy. Would spending less on a short-term need like transportation allow households to spend more on better long-term investments, like their family’s education and their own retirement?

Money spent in grocery stores, restaurants and, yes, local transit systems stays in the local economy. When a household spends money on gasoline, it mostly leaves, in large part to other countries from which we import our oil.

Florida’s loss from increasing gasoline prices was the second-largest in the nation, behind only California. Statewide, Florida lost more than $3.2 billion. In Tampa, the average household lost $228; in Miami, the loss was $265.

As gas prices rise, limited transportation choices drain more and more dollars from regional and state economies, resources that would otherwise be available to bolster household incomes and support regional economic development. Yet discussions on transportation policy go forward as though the cost of living doesn’t matter.

Read the whole report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Surface Transportation Policy Project here.


At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Juan Paxety said...

I don't know the source of their information, but a local financial radio show said that the cost of living in Jacksonville has risen 53% in the past five years - most of that due to housing costs.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Jacqueline Dowd said...

Of course, wages haven't risen anywhere near that much -- if at all. Most reports show real income actually declining.

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