Commuting and Housing Costs Add Up

Commute costs add extra burden to low income households in Nevada

Trade-offs between the cost and time it takes to get to work, school or shopping, and the cost of housing are something many families have faced at one time or another. The location of affordable housing, jobs, schools and shopping and the types of transportation available to travel in-between them can interact with costs of housing to create a greater or lesser burden for workers and their families. Local government policies may help create many of the transportation-housing trade-offs encountered by households.

The Center for Neighborhood Technology's (CNT) Housing + Transportation (H + T) Index helps measure the total cost of housing plus transportation. CNT postulates that transportation costs as low as 15% of household income are possible. Combined with the traditional housing standard which sets 30% of household income as the benchmark for affordability, CNT suggest being at or below 45% of household income for combined housing and transportation costs is an appropriate target. 

How does Nevada stack up? For the median household in Las Vegas and Reno CNT modeling estimates an H + T index of 54% of household income or about 9% over the ideal of 45%. For low income households the H + T index was measured at 64% of income in both Reno and Las Vegas. For lower income households the H+T index was almost 20% over the ideal of 45%. Both the housing component and the transportation components were over their ideal standards. 

For the transportation costs only, despite an index scoring over the ideal for low income households, Reno and Las Vegas compared relatively well to other Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) and were in the lowest 15% of CBSAs with the average low income household paying 27% of income for transportation costs. Low income households in Reno and Las Vegas paid an average of 37% of income for housing, a greater percentage than 73% of the 917 CBSAs with an index calculated by CNT.

A few of the more important factors influencing the transportation cost score are the percentage of total trips taken on mass transit bus or train systems, population density and block size. Smaller block size correlates with pedestrian friendly neighborhoods and more walking or biking. At 5%, Las Vegas ranks high for percentage of low income households  trips on mass transit, putting it in the top 2% of CBSAs on this measure. Although only 2% of low income household trips in Reno were on mass transit systems, Reno ranked in the top 20% of CBSAs.  Reno and Las Vegas also scored relatively high on a residential density measure and small block size.

The H + T Index is also available for Carson City, Elko, Fallon, Fernley, Gardenerville Ranchos, Pahrump and Winnemucca. H + T Index values for 80% AMI households were 65% in Carson City, 50% for Elko, 68% for Fallon, 66% for Fernley, 68% for Gardnerville Ranchos, 72% for Pahrump and 48% for Winnemucca. For more information see Housing + Transportation (H + T) Index.