Rankings aficionados must be confused these days about whether the District is or isn’t an expensive place to live. First came the news that D.C. is the least affordable city in America, and that it’s more expensive to live here than in any state. Then came a report finding that when you take transportation costs into account, D.C. is in fact the most affordable city in the country.
Of course, as any D.C. resident knows, housing here is not cheap. Data wonks can manipulate the numbers to arrive at just about any conclusion, but when it comes down to the amount that residents of the D.C. area pay for housing and related expenses, it’s higher than in any other major metropolitan area in America, according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
D.C.-area residents don’t actually pay the most in rent and mortgage; that honor goes residents of the San Francisco area, who pay $17,773 annually for shelter, with the D.C. area coming in just behind at $17,603. In fact, outside of household furnishings and equipment, where the D.C. area’s $2,433 a year tops the list, the Washington region isn’t the most expensive in any category. In utility payments, we come in behind Philadelphia; for household operations, San Francisco edges us out; and our spending on housekeeping supplies can’t quite beat Baltimore or Minneapolis.
But in aggregate, Washingtonian (and nearby suburbanite) households spent an average of $17,603 on housing costs in 2012, beating out (or losing to, really) every other metropolitan area that the BLS looked at. D.C.-area expenses were nearly twice those in Cleveland, which sits at the bottom of the list.
Chart from BLS