About the Location Affordability Index

There is more to housing affordability than how much rent or mortgage you pay. Transportation costs are the second-biggest budget item for most families, but it can be difficult for people to fully factor transportation costs into decisions about where to live and work. The Location Affordability Index (LAI) is user-friendly source of standardized data on combined housing and transportation costs to help consumers, policymakers, and developers make more informed decisions about where to live, work, and invest.

Note on recent changes. Due to resource constraints, HUD is no longer able to support the two data apps formerly available on this site: the map-driven Location Affordability Index app and My Transportation Cost Calculator. HUD will continue to update the LAI on an annual basis, which will allow interested policymakers, researchers, and web developers to use current data for new research and other applications going forward.

HUD and Department of Transportation (DOT) are committed to engaging with the public to continually improve and expand this resource. Please email locationaffordability@hud.gov with any questions or comments.

Background

The Location Affordability Index was developed by HUD in collaboration with DOT under the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities. One objective of the Partnership is to increase public access to data on housing, transportation, and land use. EPA's Smart Location Database and EJSCREEN tools and HUD’s AFFH Data Tool (which uses data from the LAI) are other resources developed for this purpose.

The prevailing standard of affordability in the United States is paying 30 percent or less of your family’s income on housing, but this fails to account for transportation costs. One reason is that transportation costs have grown significantly as a proportion of household income since this standard was established. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 1930's American households spent just 8 percent of their income on transportation. Since then, as a substantial proportion of the U.S. population has migrated from center cities to surrounding suburbs and exurbs and come to rely more heavily (or exclusively) on cars, that percentage has steadily increased, peaking at 19.1 percent in 2003. As of 2013, households spent on average about 17 percent of their annual income on transportation, second only to housing costs in terms of budget impact. And for many working-class and rural households, transportation costs actually exceed housing costs.

Before this Index, though, there was no standardized national data source on household transportation expenses, which limited the ability of homebuyers and renters to fully account for the cost of living in a particular city or neighborhood. This site seeks to fill that gap. Planners, policymakers, and developers also stand to benefit from access to this data when making decisions about land use, housing, transportation, and economic development. HUD and DOT have engaged experts and key stakeholders from the fields of urban and transportation planning, affordable housing, and economic development and produced extensive reviews of the data and modeling techniques used in the tools that have been made available on this site for the first time.