Region’s cost of living remains low
Southwestern Pennsylvania remains more affordable overall than the average U.S. region despite an uptick in the cost of living last year, according to national cost of living data.
In 2017, the average composite cost of living index for the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area was 99.6, according to the recently released Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) cost of living index.
The average score for U.S. metropolitan regions is 100.
Pittsburgh’s score is also below the 108 average score among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions. Pittsburgh ranks 8th out of the 16 benchmark regions – slightly more affordable than Cleveland, slightly more expensive than Austin. Seattle has the highest cost of living.
The cost of living index from C2ER is an index of the costs of core goods and services relative to the U.S. average.
Housing and health care
Low housing and health care costs have historically been major forces driving the region’s low overall cost of living. And in 2017, Pittsburgh’s health care costs—based on the cost of various doctors visits and prescription drugs—were the third-lowest among all benchmark regions.
Pittsburgh’s housing cost score has been rising, from 87 in 2014 to 91.5 last year, said Jim Futrell, an Allegheny Conference on Community Development vice president. “That reinforces some of the anecdotal things you hear about the increase in housing costs in the urban market – the new inventory at the top end of the market and the cost of single family homes too.”
Relatively more expensive utilities and grocery costs are major factors that raise the overall cost of living in the region. While utility costs in Pittsburgh are often among the most affordable in the Northeast, other parts of the country have cheaper utility costs, said Futrell.
Despite the recent increase in housing costs, Futrell said Pittsburgh stands a good chance of remaining an affordable region. “Even as it fluctuates, [Pittsburgh] housing tends to have one of the lowest index score among the categories that are rated. That reinforces that we have reasonable cost of living from a housing perspective compared to other communities.”