Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 11:27 AM

Maybe we all should have paid more attention to real estate's "location, location, location" axiom.

Land is generally cheapest the farther it is from a city core, due to the law of supply and demand. That typically means suburban homes are thought of as more affordable.

(I know, you're thinking about housing prices in Germantown and Collierville, but if you consider what those same homes would cost if they were in, say, Central Gardens or Downtown, well, the land value makes a difference.)

But how affordable are they really?

Last week, Ellen Dunham-Jones, co-author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, spoke at the Brooks as part of Architecture Month. Her book is a guide — with case studies — for redeveloping out-of-date suburbs into more urban, sustainable spaces.

I've written about it for next week's Flyer, but in the meantime, she said something that I thought really interesting.

Housing is generally considered affordable if it costs less than 30 percent of the area's median income. But what if transportation costs are included? If you buy an inexpensive house in the suburbs, but you have to drive 40 miles to your job in downtown Memphis each morning, is that really a good deal?

Chicago's Center for Neighborhood Technology says that by assessing the cost of housing plus transportation, it provides the true cost of housing decisions. They looked at housing and transportation costs for roughly 50 regions in the United States, including Memphis, and defined an affordable range as consuming no more than 48 percent of median income.

It's kind of small, but here's what you need to know: The yellow parts are affordable. The blue parts, not so much.



p.s. Yes, things are glitchy here today.

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