Even with access to world-class amenities and transportation networks,
Greater Kansas City features one of the lowest costs of living for any comparable
metropolitan area in the nation.
Cost of Living
That status starts with the states of Missouri and
Kansas. In the first quarter of 2007, these two states
were among the top five most affordable states in
the country. According to a cost of living survey by
ACCRA, metropolitan Kansas City is consistently
among the nation’s least expensive medium- and
One of the best measurements in this topic is provided by the area’s Mid-America Regional Council, which tracks a wide range of statistics for the relatively similar Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area. As recently as first quarter 2006, this area was actually seeing a declining cost of living, with groceries, housing and utilities all reflecting average lower prices.
Among few counties not included in the Statistical Area, Buchanan County and St. Joseph show these general trends still apply. This region north of Kansas City boasts even more affordable housing and other key costs. In fact, St. Joseph ranks among the most economical areas in the entire Kansas City region. The cost of living index for this metropolitan statistical area is 91.7 percent, compared to 100.3 percent for St. Louis and 93.4 percent for Omaha, according to ACCRA.
Housing is a good example in St. Joseph as it is throughout Greater Kansas City. According to the U.S. Census, St. Joseph’s average housing costs are much lower than Missouri’s average, with the median value of homes less than $70,000, compared to approximately $90,000 statewide or $84,000 in Jackson County.
Throughout the Kansas City region, this affordability results in a level of home owner-ship that would be unthinkable in many areas of the nation, especially the East and West coasts. In Clay County, approximately 70 percent of the residents own their homes. When average salaries are factored in, nearly 80 percent of Clay County residents can afford an average home, compared to as few as 20 percent in areas such as California or New York. In Denver, the same family could buy only 60 percent of the homes. In New York, that drops to 50 percent, while in San Diego it falls to 22 percent. Such high home-ownership and relatively high standards of home quality are common here.
Areas within Greater Kansas City do show considerable variation in many ways, however. Although many communities on the Kansas side of the state line show an overall lower cost of living, some of the highest locales are also here. Johnson County, Kansas leads this trend, with the area’s abundance of luxury homes and somewhat higher costs for basics such as food. Given the high wages—Johnson County’s average income is one of the highest in the country for a region this size—the difference is rarely a factor.
Similar, upper-bracket enclaves with somewhat higher costs include areas of Platte County and eastern Jackson County, Missouri. Conversely, smaller, outlying communities generally reflected the lowest overall costs of living. In communities such as Marshall in Saline County, Missouri, or Ottawa, in Franklin County, Kansas, median home prices range below $80,000 or even $70,000, while other costs are comparatively low. Some other-wise affordable communities see some cost pressure from local market factors. Examples include Lawrence, Kansas, with Kansas niversity, and Warrensburg with the University of Central Missouri and Whiteman Air Force Base.
In general, however, the overwhelming
picture here is of almost extreme affordability.
Stories of transplanted residents
from the East or West Coast who are almost
shocked at low housing costs are not
uncommon. Overall, only a few unique
cost/use markets result in notably higher
average costs. Transportation, for example,
averages a higher percentage here than
in many locales because of the relatively
expansive metropolitan region and lack
of public transportation. Even with such
factors, the overall costs remain low.
Even more comprehensive figures from the US. Department of Labor underscored the region’s generally positive picture. Measuring both Missouri and Kansas sides of the metropolitan area, the Department of Labor recorded averages generally below both national and Midwest regional cost-of- living figures for the first half of 2007.
Only in the area of apparel did this metropolitan area see significant increases. Areas such as housing, education, communication, food and beverages saw moderate increases of three percent or less over the same period in 2006. These numbers compared to three- and four-percent increases for the nation and the greater Midwest. In medical, recreation and transportation markets, the increases were even less, averaging below two percent compared to national and Midwestern increases that veered from two percent to nearly 10 percent for some categories.
As with the rest of the nation, the
housing market showed considerable
change, even if the overall costs compared
favorably to other regions. Although percentage
of increases were moderate, the
changes in sheer dollars were significant.
In August 2007, The Department of Labor
noted that the Consumer Price Index for
All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for the
Kansas City metropolitan area increased 2.4 percent from the first half of 2006 to the first half of 2007. Higher prices for housing accounted for more than twofifths of the increase in the overall index. Energy prices also advanced 4.1 percent over the same period. Excluding the impact of food and energy, the CPI for Kansas City rose 2.1 percent from the first half of 2006 to the first half of 2007.