Destination Kansas City
 


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 large-sized cities.

Positive Picture

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.


Some Exceptions

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.

Detailed Examination

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.
    

COST OF LIVING

Metropolitan Area Pop. Pop. Rank Composite Groc. Housing Util. Trans Health Care Misc. Goods & Services
Houston, TX 5,641,077 9 87.4 83.7 75.3 94.2 95.0 101.7 93.9
Charlotte, NC 2,191,604 24 92.6 100.1 75.1 84.0 98.0 105.6 103.3
San Antonio, TX 1,942,217 30 94.3 83.4 85.8 81.2 98.7 102.3 106.6
Indianapolis, IN 1,984,644 28 94.8 91.6 100.3 95.4 101.3 93.6 89.7
Pittsburgh, PA 2,462,571 22 94.2 97.6 87.0 107.6 101.7 85.9 93.6
Cincinnati, OH 2,147,617 25 91.8 989.9 81.8 99.4 102.5 91.5 95.3
KANSAS CITY, MO-KS 2,034,796 27 96.5 88.2 89.2 104.2 103.4 97.6 101.2
St. Louis, MO 2,858,549 19 90.6 99.7 78.2 86.1 92.9 99.1 96.8
Oklahoma City, OK 1,240,977 44 87.4 85.8 74.7 83.5 104.4 99.4 93.1
Atlanta, GA 5,478,667 10 98.0 98.1 93.5 91.5 105.3 101.4 100.9
Cleveland, OH 2,917,801 18 99.6 105.9 90.7 113.1 104.6 101.7 98.8
Tampa, FL 2,697,731 20 98.3 94.0 96.4 97.1 101.1 95.7 101.1
Milwaukee, WI 1,706,077 32 100.5 94.5 106.8 91.5 102.1 113.0 98.2
Denver, CO 2,927,911 17 105.0 104.7 109.3 101.8 96.6 107.9 104.6
Columbus, OH 1,835,189 28 102.1 99.1 101.8 113.7 101.7 106.2 99.8
Minneapolis, MN 3,502,891 15 110.4 112.3 122.2 101.3 108.0 103.0 104.5
Orlando, FL 2,633,282 21 104.6 100.4 98.5 109.2 105.5 94.7 110.6
Phoenix, AZ 4,039,182 13 100.9 104.6 100.7 94.5 94.1 101.0 103.4
Detroit MI 5,410,014 12 100.9 97.2 102.3 108.8 105.7 99.7 97.8
Louisville, KY 1,356,798 39 96.7 87.5 90.9 112.1 108.7 96.3 97.1
Chicago, IL 9,725,317 3 109.9 109.6 122.9 107.5 112.8 106.2 100.0
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL 5,463,857 11 114.7 103.5 141.3 106.3 108.5 107.8 102.6
Seattle, WA 3,991,911 14 123.3 110.5 154.3 98.4 108.0 123.1 114.9
Portland, OR 2,137,565 26 121.7 130.6 134.1 103.1 108.2 106.9 119.5
Sacramento, CA 2,373,596 23 125.1 130.9 154.8 101.9 104.8 114.3 113.0
New Orleans, LA 1,069,428 52 98.5 107.8 93.0 94.5 100.7 100.2 99.9
Philadelphia, PA 6,382,714 7 123.2 120.4 147.1 115.7 102.6 111.6 114.6
Boston, MA 7,465,634 5 136.8 120.5 167.8 141.4 103.6 139.9 125.9
New York, NY 21,976,224 1 127.8 116.5 174.9 106.7 95.4 104.7 112.1
Washington-Baltimore 8,211,213 4 137.0 108.5 214.6 111.1 107.9 110.2 104.3
Little Rock, AR 829,032 60 99.0 102.3 79.1 114.4 96.2 95.3 110.6
San Francisco, CA 7,228,948 6 166.4 127.5 282.9 87.3 113.5 120.4 130.7
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, ACCRA Cost of Living Index, 3rd Quarter 2007