A new report from the Washington-based Center for Housing Policy finds that in major metropolitan regions around the country, the money you save on housing by moving away from the city is about the same amount you will spend on additional transportation costs.
Frequently, families that move away from cities such as San Francisco fail to prepare for the high cost of the car culture they enter. “Transportation means not only going to work, but if you’re living in one of the outlying suburbs, it means you need a car to do absolutely everything,” says Barbara Lipman, the research director for the report. “I think it’s important to consider your total costs.”
In this week’s Real Change column, which is about the importance of location to a successful car-free life, I also touch on the issue:
If you’re settling for a sidewalkless suburb with spread-out strip malls and hourly bus service because you think it’s cheaper, consider this: According to the American Automobile Association, the total annual cost (including gas, insurance, parking, maintenance, and depreciation) for an average mid-sized sedan in 2004 was $8,410. If you move to a transit-friendly neighborhood, you can drop that expensive habit. Spend $700 for an annual Metro pass, throw in another $700 for fare upgrades, Flexcar rentals, and occasional cabs, and you’ve still got an extra $7,000–almost $600 per month–to contribute to higher housing costs.