In an attempt to help consumers, housing providers, and policy makers connect the dots between housing and transportation costs, the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Workforce Housing launched a cost calculator on Nov. 4 in conjunction with the release of “Bay Area Burden,” a special report examining the combined toll of transportation and housing costs on residents, the built community, and the environment. Both the report and the calculator were unveiled at a press conference in conjunction with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) 2009 Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

According to the report, the average San Francisco area household spends more than $41,000 a year—nearly 60 percent of the area income—on transportation and housing costs alone. “The heavy burden forces residents to make extremely difficult decisions that pit housing and transportation choices against other basic needs such as health care, education, and food,” said ULI Terwilliger Center chairman and CEO of Trammell Crow Residential Ronald Terwilliger at the press conference. “These findings reinforce that years of ever-sprawling development have resulted in a growing gap between where people live and people work.”

The customizable calculator available at allows for combined housing and transportation costs using household characteristics and location, evaluates how changes in housing or transportation choices can impact expenses, and compares household costs with neighborhood and regional averages. “The calculator could encourage the public to move closer to employment or public transportation modes in addition to helping policymakers address the problems and opportunities surrounding housing and transportation to forge solutions to confront them,” said former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston at the press conference. “I think it is a vital step to empower residents to call on policymakers to affect change.”

Speaking for the current HUD administration, the department’s senior advisor for Sustainable Housing and Communities Shelley Poticha noted that the HUD Secretary has already asked her department for an analysis of how HUD programs might change with the adoption of a new definition of sustainability that incorporates the link between housing, transportation, and energy costs. “The 'Bay Area Burden' report illuminates the challenges that people have,” Poticha said. “It’s very urgent that we take these issues on because affordability is more than just housing; it is a bundle of things that includes housing and transportation and other factors.”

Poticha said that HUD has been considering a program that analyzes transportation costs for specific for-sale and for-rent housing units and displays that cost to consumers via a sticker visible somewhere on the property. She also noted that HUD has observed a link between foreclosures and poor transit service opportunities. “That is a problem we may have created in the way we built our communities.” 

The report was produced in partnership with the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology and provides a housing and transportation “cost in place” analysis for nine counties in the San Francisco region. The report additionally found that one-fourth of all households in the Bay Area live in neighborhoods where housing and transportation costs account for greater than 65 percent of household income. Over the next 25 years, the Bay Area is projected to grow by 1.6 million residents, a 22 percent population increase that study authors say demands better integration of land use, housing, and transportation policies to encourage new residential development in areas well-served by public transit or near job centers.