Location Affordability Index User Guide

Overview

When a user clicks on the Location Affordability Index (LAI) tab, a blue overview box provides a general introduction to the LAI. After reading the overview, click CONTINUE, or the X in the upper right corner to close the box. Click the About link to see the overview again. Links to a User Guide and an option to download data are also available on the Location Affordability Index page. Instructions for downloading data can be found in the final section of this user guide.

Overview

Navigating the LAI Map

To view combined housing and transportation costs, or location affordability, for a location, enter the address. The location can be a specific street address, zip code, place, county, or Core Based Statistical Area (CBSA). LAI Version 2 covers the entire United States. The map will zoom to the address entered. If you type in a street address or zip code, the Census block group in which the address or zip code is located will be outlined and a marker will appear for the specific address; when you enter a zip code a block group is automatically selected. The Census block group number, as well as the place, county, and CBSA name where the tract is located, will be shown next to the search bar. You can move up a level in geography by selecting any of the geographies. For example, selecting “Chicago” on the map illustrated below expands the outline to include the entire City of Chicago. The default map view shows the location affordability, i.e. the combined housing and transportation costs as a percent of income, for a Median-Income Family.

LAI Map

Map Controls

You can move around the map using the zoom bar and navigation tool. If you click a spot on the map, it will change the selection to view information for that specific block group on the map.

The Median-Income Family is the LAI’s default household type display. The Median-Income Family earns the regional median income, has a household size of 4, and has 2 commuters. In rural areas, the income for the Median-Income Family is derived from county level data. A description of the household type is available by clicking the question mark next to the household type name. A link to the My Transportation Cost Calculator is also provided for users that would like more customized transportation costs for a specific address.

Household Type Help

Housing and transportation costs, in both dollars and as a percent of income, are shown for the Median-Income Family. Housing costs reflect spending by current residents, not current market value. Modeled household transportation behavior is reported for average auto ownership, annual vehicle miles traveled, and annual number of transit trips. Average housing and transportation costs can be viewed for owners, renters, or owners and renters combined.

Housing and Transportation Costs

LAI Map Views

The default LAI map theme is location affordability; however maps showing average housing costs as a percent of income or average transportation costs as a percent of income can also be viewed. To change the map theme, click on the arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the map next to the words Information on Map.

Alternate Map Themes

The map theme can also be changed by selecting the boxes showing average costs as a percentage of income for housing and transportation located in the panel to the left of the map. After selecting the box, the map changes to only show information on that specific variable (e.g., in this illustration, transportation); the box color changes to reflect the variable’s value.

Alternate Map Themes

Location Affordability Index (LAI) Household Types

In addition to Median-Income Family, the LAI model has been constructed for seven other household types. Fixing income, household size, and the number of commuters, allows the model to control for the impact of these variables on transportation costs. Differences in transportation costs may then be attributed to neighborhood characteristics and variation in the built environment. Please refer to Data and Methodology: Location Affordability Index 2.0 Simultaneous Equations Model for a detailed description of how housing and transportation costs are modeled for the LAI. Additional information on the research supporting the LAI model and its model code may be found under Technical Documentation on the Location Affordability Portal.

The LAI’s eight available household types, which were selected to meet the needs of a variety of users, including planning agencies, HUD employees, real estate professionals, and individuals are shown in the following table. It is important to note that there is no guarantee that housing appropriate for a specific household type is available in a given location.

HOUSEHOLD TYPE SIZE OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME # COMMUTERS
Median-Income Family 4 Median Income for Region or County 2
Very Low-Income Individual 1 National Poverty Line 1
Working Individual 1 50% of Median Income for Region or County 1
Single Professional 1 135% Median Income for Region or County 1
Retired Couple 2 80% of Median Income for Region or County 0
Single-Parent Family 3 50% of Median Income for Region or County 1
Moderate-Income Family 3 80% of Median Income for Region or County 1
Dual-Professional Family 4 150% of Median Income for Region or County 2

To view housing and transportation costs for different household types, click on the Household Profile arrow.

Household Type Change

Selecting a different household type updates the map and data to show housing and transportation costs in the same location for the newly selected household type.

Household Type Info

Additional Features

Maps and data can be printed or shared using the links at the bottom of the page.

Sharing Icons

Downloading LAI Data

There is a link to download LAI data under the Location Affordability Index dropdown menu.

Downloading Data

Census Block Group and Tract data can be downloaded from this page by CBSA and County; data aggregated to places and counties can be downloaded by state; and data aggregated to CBSAs can be downloaded for the entire US.

Downloading Data

NOTE: This is LAI Version 2. However, data for LAI Version 1 is also available for download. Note that data and estimates from LAI Version 1 and LAI Version 2 are based on different models and are not directly comparable.

LAI Data Dictionary

The LAI data dictionary, which explains each field, is found as a downloadable PDF document by selecting the Data Dictionary (PDF) link.

Additional Resources

In addition to this User Guide, the Methodology for the Location Affordability Index (LAI) and a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are also available.