Nav: Home

Is HUD housing affordable? New FAU study says not when you factor in costs to commute

March 29, 2016

Where to live can be a dilemma for many Americans. Do you pay more for housing located near work and other destinations or do you pay less for housing that requires extensive driving? What about families with housing subsidies? Does this tradeoff on housing and transportation expenses hold true for them?

That's what researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the University of Texas, Arlington, and the University of Utah sought to find out in the first study to evaluate the affordability of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 Multifamily recipients. The evidence-based research, recently published in the journal Housing Policy Debate, is the largest sample of household travel records ever assembled for such a study outside the National Household Travel Survey.

"HUD does not factor transportation costs into how they measure affordability. Many low-income people on Section 8 are forced to live in inaccessible locations where they can find landlords willing to accept the vouchers, which are often far from their jobs or quality transit service to reach their jobs," said John Renne, Ph.D., study co-author and director and associate professor in the Center for Urban & Environmental Solutions in the School of Urban and Regional Planning within the College for Design and Social Inquiry at FAU. "Transportation costs, after housing, is the second biggest expense in the budgets of most American households, especially for those who live in suburban areas with poor transit connectivity."

According to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, housing plus transportation costs consumed 43 percent of U.S. household incomes in 2011.

Using household travel models estimated with data from 15 diverse regions in the U.S., Renne and his collaborators estimated and summed automobile capital costs, automobile operating costs, and transit fare costs for households at 8,857 HUD rental assistance properties. The regions used in the study were as diverse as Boston and Portland, Ore. at one end of the urban form continuum and Houston and Kansas City, Mo. at the other. Models in the study were specific to low-income households, a group that has received little attention in literature on travel and transportation.

Results from the study show:

  • Of the 8,857 properties, households in 3,860 properties (44 percent of all properties in the study sample) spent on average 15 percent of their income on transportation costs.

  • A property located in a HUD assistance program in downtown Los Angeles had the lowest transportation costs spending $1,988 or less than 3.5 percent of its household budget on transportation. The same household in a property in a distant and inaccessible location in Wheeling, W.V.-Ohio County spent $10,349 or 28 percent of its household budget on transportation.

  • Transportation is unaffordable for all properties in 70 of the 322 metropolitan areas and divisions that supply Section 8 Multifamily rental assistance. Some of these areas are Memphis, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; Hickory, N.C.; and Las Vegas.

  • Conversely, the more compact metropolitan areas were found to have the highest number of affordable rental assistance properties.

  • San Francisco has the highest percentage of affordable properties, followed by Denver; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Ore.; and New York.

"Our research suggests that these particular HUD rental assistance programs, when they subsidize housing in sprawling auto-dependent areas, are not holistically affordable," said Renne. "It also suggests that HUD can provide more affordable units to low-income families by directing subsidies to better or more compact, walkable, and transit-served locations."

Renne and his co-authors, Shima Hamidi, Ph.D., an assistant professor of planning at the University of Texas, Arlington, and Reid Ewing, Ph.D., a professor and chair of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah, also point out that another implication of their study could be that properties in sprawling or inaccessible areas need to include a transportation allowance in addition to the existing utility allowance, or that the housing subsidy would need to be higher in inaccessible areas to account for the added transportation costs. Similarly, analysis from the study could be used to promote small area fair market rent (FMRs) so that assisted households could access housing in more central locations.

While the study did not include data from Miami, Renne notes, "The findings from this study are applicable to South Florida, which is suffering from rapidly increasing rental prices and poor transit connectivity."
- FAU -

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU's world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU's existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

Florida Atlantic University

Related Properties Articles:

Gas gives laser-induced graphene super properties
Introducing gas to fabrication changes the water-reacting properties of laser-induced graphene invented at Rice University, making it either superhydrophilic or superhydrophobic.
Microdevice provides novel method of measuring cell mechanical properties
Researchers from Kumamoto University in Japan have developed a new method of measuring the Young's modulus of a cell.
Beta blocker shows cancer-fighting properties
A new study finds that carvedilol, a drug typically used to treat high blood pressure, can protect against the sun-induced cell damage that leads to skin cancer.
Gray tin exhibits novel topological electronic properties in 3-D
In a surprising new discovery, alpha-tin, commonly called gray tin, exhibits a novel electronic phase when its crystal structure is strained, putting it in a rare new class of 3-D materials called topological Dirac semimetals (TDSs).
Organic-inorganic heterostructures with programmable electronic properties
Researchers from the University of Strasbourg & CNRS (France), in collaboration with the University of Mons (Belgium), the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (Germany) and the Technische Universit├Ąt Dresden (Germany), have devised a novel supramolecular strategy to introduce tunable 1D periodic potentials upon self-assembly of ad hoc organic building blocks on graphene, opening the way to the realization of hybrid organic-inorganic multilayer materials with unique electronic and optical properties.
Stabilizing soils with sulfates to improve their constructional properties
Stabilization by means of conventional additives cannot be carried out on soils with sulfates because the calcium in these additives adversely reacts with the sulfate present in the soil.
Do cells have exotic vibrational properties?
A little-understood biological property that appears to allow cell components to store energy on their outer edges is the possible key to developing a new class of materials and devices to collect, store and manage energy for a variety of applications, a team of researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Yeshiva University has proposed.
Nano 'sandwich' offers unique properties
Nanoclusters of magnesium oxide sandwiched between layers of graphene make a compound with unique electronic and optical properties, according to researchers at Rice University who built computer simulations of the material.
'Good' cholesterol may have different chemical properties in Alzheimer's patients
They found that compared to healthy people, Alzheimer's patients had a 5.5 times increase of a dysfunctional HDL subfraction, as well as a decreased protein/lipid ratio.
A new platform to study graphene's electronic properties
IBS scientists model the electronic structure of graphene.

Related Properties Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...