Commuting Distance and Housing Affordability

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As commuting distance grows, nearby housing affordability does not, studies find

Image of a road--employees are traveling farther to get to work, study finds.
May 18, 2015

Employees are traveling farther to get to work, according to a study from the Brookings Institution. The number of jobs within the typical commuting distance for residents in a major metro area decreased by 7 percent between 2000 and 2012.

As rental prices in cities continue to rise, employers are searching for locations in suburbs. But despite the move to the suburbs, the number of jobs located near the typical city resident and suburban resident fell. The report found that the number of jobs within an average commuting distance dropped by 7 percent for suburban residents and by 3 percent for city residents.

There were a total of 59.4 million suburban residents who lived in areas with a declining proximity to jobs, while 32.7 million city residents lived in neighborhoods with a growing distance between jobs, the Brookings’ study found. 

Twenty-nine metros saw a rise in the number of jobs available within typical commuting distances, many of which were in the South and West such as McAllen, Texas; Bakersfield, Calif.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Baton Rouge, La.

A separate RealtyTrac study found that although the economy and housing market are on the upswing, many employees across the country are being priced out of housing markets in the locales in which they work. Between 2012 and 2014, the study found, home prices appreciated 17.3 percent, while median weekly wages rose just 1.3 percent.

“Those markets with the biggest disconnect between price growth and wage growth during the last two years are most likely to see plateauing prices in 2015 until wages catch up,” said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. 

Cities experiencing the biggest gap between employee wages and home prices include the usual suspects, such as San Francisco, where home prices rose 38.6 percent but wages only went up 7.1 percent; Los Angeles with a 28.4 percent rise in home prices but only a 2.5 percent gain in wages; Washington, D.C., with 10.6 percent increase in home prices and 1.5 percent rise in wages; and Chicago, where there was a 20.5 percent rise in home prices and a 3.1 percent wage increase. Also on the list was Detroit, where the change in median home prices rose 57.1 percent, but the change in average weekly wages only increased by 4.9 percent. PB

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Sara Elliott, Associate Editor. selliott@sgcmail.com

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