So it's kind of important that you be able to pay for the basic costs of living. And there are a lot of people out there that can't, as an aside - but problems of poverty aren't what I'm looking at today. You see, even if you take a family with a house and a steady job, we still need to be asking whether or not that family is able to afford that house and that lifestyle. And I just found a new website to play with that looks into some of those questions.
Particularly, it plays into my political pet peeve - transportation and infrastructure. Apparently, housing is considered affordable if it consumes less than 30% of a family's household budget. (I had not known this before.) That said, though, the next largest expenditure for most households is transportation. I can agree that most people don't really think about it - fill the car up with gas when it gets empty, and fix it if it breaks. Right?
Shockingly, that's surprisingly inefficient. It's quite educational to examine the maps they've created, adding transportation costs to housing costs and comparing that to 45% of a household budget. Taking transportation costs into account generally decreases the amount of area marked as "affordable", but oddly enough, there's usually a core of "affordable" territory in the inner city - this is true of Boston, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and New York at the very least. This despite the fact that housing usually costs more, not less, within the city as opposed to out in the suburbs. You don't think that this would have anything to do with intelligent city design (walkability) and access to effective public transportation such as subways and commuter rail lines, do you?
But surely we should keep building highways, upgrade our national air traffic control network, and spend money basically on everything except the things that make that affordable core possible. Never mind that trains (to a greater extent than almost anything else) rely on a large number of people using them to be cost-effective, and that we have to make them effective before people will use them in large numbers. Nope, we'll just keep building the U.S. so that you have to drive or fly anywhere you want to go, and complain that trains are getting special favors when anyone dares suggest trying to upgrade that aspect of our transportation network.
And maybe when that entire damn map is blue (that is to say, marked "not affordable"), we'll figure out that we've royally screwed over our national infrastructure.