Pricey but Popular

Nov. 7, 2003

Pricey but Popular

A high cost of living has not stopped growth in the country's pricier towns. The most expensive cities in America - San Francisco and New York - have enjoyed relatively continuous growth, even during the recent economic downturn.

On the Gulf Coast, that trend is evident in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral metropolitan area. With a higher-than average cost of living index at 106.4, the area has experienced explosive growth in new housing so far this year, with the number of new housing permits in the first nine months of 2003 increasing by 37% over the same period last year.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area has benefited from a combination of a lower-than-average cost of living and lifestyle offerings. New housing in that area has grown by more than 10% each of the last three years, with a 24% increase in permits for the first nine months of this year over that same period last year.

But perhaps the real winner on the Gulf Coast is Punta Gorda, with an extremely low cost of living index at 90.8, this still-quaint beach town is experiencing 28.4% growth in new housing this year. With that kind of growth, one wonders how long the cost of living will stay so low.

The biggest loser on this list? Denver. With a cost of living index of 106.1, it has suffered a decrease in new housing of 25% or more the last two years. Let's face it people just prefer sunshine.

- Kendall Jones


apartment costs

One of the factors ACCRA considers in creating its cost-of-living index is the cost to rent a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. The average rental cost for the 295 urban areas researched is $731.00 per month.

Metro AreaAverage Rent Cost

New York, NY$3,543

Jersey City, NJ$2,141

San Francisco, CA$2,005

Washington D.C./

Suburban Maryland$1,987


West Palm Beach$791




Auburn-Opelika, AL$490

ACCRA Cost-of-Living Index

The Cost-of-Living Index is compiled and published quarterly by ACCRA, the association of community and economic development research professionals. The average cost of living for the 295 urban areas researched is 100.

The index measures differences between areas in the cost of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for professional and managerial households in the top income quintile.

It is based on more than 60 items for which prices are collected quarterly; they are placed into six component categories. The composite index is based on the six components.

The following is excerpted from ACCRA's second quarter 2003 cost of living index, with Gulf Coast cities shown in bold.



San Francisco, CA180.7125.1327.7113.0146.3

New York, NY175.0130.9279.9150.8157.0

Boston, MA136.2116.1184.8140.4127.0

Chicago, IL132.8120.8177.4115.4133.1

Fort Myers-Cape Coral106.4106.1107.3108.4106.5

Denver, CO106.1105.8111.196.1120.2




Dallas, TX96.997.202.489.2101.2

Atlanta, GA95.997.590.192.6101.5


St. Petersburg-Clearwater91.

Punta Gorda90.899.783.388.095.3

Source: ACCRA Cost of Living Index, second quarter 2003

Trend of New Housing Units Authorized

The following shows the year-to-date number of new, privately-owned housing units authorized in each of the metropolitan areas shown for the combined first three quarters of each year indicated. Values shown are in the millions of dollars and reflect the total value of the units authorized. Gulf Coast areas are in bold.

City09/00 (total value)09/01 (value)% Chg 00-0109/02 (value)% Chg 01-0209/03 (value)% Chg 02-03

Atlanta50,340 ($4,744)51,858 ($5,085)3%51,428 ($5,290)(0.8%)49,360 ($5,463)(4%)

Boston6,190 ($919)5,708 ($919)(7.8%)5,712 ($904)0.7%6,142 ($941)7.5%

Chicago29,369 ($3,913)30,267 ($4,217) 3%31,650 ($4,556)4.6%32,340 ($5,129)2%

Dallas23,689 ($3,253)26,535 ($3,670)12%25,139 ($3,482)(5.3%)27,874 ($3,983)10.9%

Denver19,289 ($2,091)22,110 ($2,447)14%15,985 ($1,987)(27.7%)11,993 ($1,962)(25%)

Fort Myers - Cape Coral7,113 ($1,106)8,196 ($1,108)15.2%7,913 ($1,069)(3.5%)10,836 ($1,401)37%

Naples6,192 ($952)6,171 ($832)(0.3%)5,978 ($868)(3%)4,643 ($736)(22.3%)

New York13,758 ($1,216)14,235 ($1,264)3.5%16,489 ($1,526)16%17,019 ($1,574)3%

Orlando18,921 ($1,794)18,540 ($2,026)(2%)19,632 ($2,186)5.9%20,069 ($2,586)2.2%

Punta Gorda1,123 ($128)1,597 ($162)42.2%1,386 ($201)(13.2%)1,780 ($262)28.4%

San Francisco19,448 ($3,422)17,699 ($3,027)(9%)17,097 ($3,276)(3.4%)20,837 ($3,859)22%

Sarasota-Bradenton5,870 ($658)6,558 ($903)11.7%7,909 ($1,085)20.6%7,121 ($1,203)(10%)

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater13,948 ($1,374)15,951 ($1,677)14.4%18,217 ($1,907)14%22,573 ($2,838)24%

Source: Federal government Census Bureau