Rethinking Housing and Commutes

Americans in cities across the country used to aspire to home ownership — not only to have a place of one’s own, but because it made financial sense.f4b211c4c

But times have changed, and there are a number of reasons why owning a home is no longer the financial vehicle (pardon the pun) it once was. One reason is that owning a house isn’t always a strong long-term investment. Another is that it can actually lead to higher spending on transportation.

That’s especially true for people who must buy in a location that’s far away from their workplace in order to find an affordable home. They may have saved money on housing costs, but they’re spending more on transportation – almost enough to eclipse the housing savings. According to the Center for Housing and Policy, for every dollar saved in housing costs by moving out of Austin, it costs 77 cents in transportation costs to drive back into the city.

So what’s a commuter to do? Some commuters have figured out a new answer, renting close to transit centers or city centers. According to data from real estate website Trulia, renters have shorter commutes than homeowners in America’s largest metros, including Austin.

Renters in large metro areas had commutes that were about a minute and a half shorter on average than those of homeowners – not a staggering sum, it’s true, but consider that those 90 seconds add up to save almost nine hours over the course of a year.

Before you assume that renting isn’t for you, think about the potential upsides that renting near options or your workplace could bring: less time in traffic, more time to yourself or with family and friends, transportation savings, and better health (sitting in traffic, it turns out, is terrible for our health).

In Austin, renting is doable beyond the downtown area, where prices are highest. There are more and more rental options in dense parts of the city beyond downtown that allow for easy access to transit, or make biking to work a realistic option. And if you must drive, you’ll at least have a shorter commute that won’t involve congested highways.

image via Trulia

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