Redfin Used New “Sustainability Score” to Rate the 50 Biggest U.S. Cities by a Combination of Walkability, Bikeability and Access to Public Transit and Parks

Dense Housing is Green Housing, According to Redfin Chief Economist’s Analysis of Commute Times for Affordable Homes

MinneapolisChicago and Philadelphiaare the most affordable sustainable cities, according to Redfin (, the tech-powered real estate brokerage.

In a new report, Redfin paired its own Walk ScoreⓇ, Transit ScoreⓇ and Bike ScoreⓇ data with ParkScore ratings from The Trust for Public Land to rank the 50 most populous U.S. cities according to a new “Sustainability Score.” Each of the four components is measured on a scale of one to 100, where 100 is the best rating and one is the worst. The overall Sustainability Score is an average of the four components.

San Francisco, with a Sustainability Score of 79.2, ranked highest among the biggest cities in the nation. New York was a close second with a score of 79.0, and Washington, D.C., ranked third with a Sustainability Score of 74.2. Fort Worth, Texas (25.3), Charlotte, North Carolina (27.5), and Arlington, Texas (29.3) had the lowest Sustainability Score ratings.

Sustainable cities tend to be more expensive to live in, with six of the top 10 having median home prices above $500,000Minneapolis (73.1), Chicago (72.7) and Philadelphia (67.9) are notable exceptions, ranking among the 10 most sustainable cities, but also having relatively affordable home prices below the national median of $295,100.

To further explore the relationship between housing affordability and environmental impact, Redfin’s chief economist, Daryl Fairweather, also examined the connection between housing density, commute times and carbon emissions.

“In many cities, the only places that middle- and low-income people can afford to live is on the outskirts, where residents have to drive farther to get to work, school and the grocery store, emitting more carbon into the atmosphere,” Fairweather said. “Cities need to build dense housing near jobs or mass-transit to allow residents to live a greener lifestyle, in order to significantly limit carbon emissions.”

To quantify the housing affordability crisis’s impact on the environment, Fairweather analyzed commute times in 54 major metro areas of homes for sale that would be affordable to a family earning the local median household income.

Twenty-two percent of homes that were listed for sale last year were both within a 30-minute drive to the local jobs center and affordable for a family making the local median income, down from 33 percent in 2013. Philadelphia has the shortest average commute time–just 19 minutes–from affordable homes for sale to its job center. Orange County, California, is close behind with a 20-minute average commute, followed by Fresno and Detroit, each with 21-minute average commutes from affordable homes for sale.

Los Angeles, where more than 85 percent of workers commute by car, has the longest average commute time–50 minutes–from affordable homes for sale to its job center. A family earning the local median household income of $67,780 would have to live as far as 65 miles away in Palmdale, where the commute time to downtown Los Angeles ranges from one to two hours during rush hour. A driver doing that commute would emit over 50 kg of carbon per day, while someone who lives in downtown Los Angeles would emit nearly no carbon walking or taking mass transit to work. That means every additional unit of housing built in downtown Los Angeles could prevent over 13,655 kg of carbon emissions each year. That’s more than enough carbon to cancel out 13 meat-eaters going vegan.

In the last five years, cities have become less dense and therefore less environmental friendly. Unless cities build more dense housing close to jobs or mass transit, the carbon impact from middle- and low-income workers having to commute long distances by car will continue to worsen.

To read Redfin’s Sustainability Score report, complete with the full ranking and methodology as well as an interactive map, please visit:

To read Dr. Fairweather’s analysis of why dense housing is green housing and the complete ranking of metros by shortest average commute time from affordable homes for sale, please visit:

For Redfin’s tips on eight easy changes you can make to your home to make it more environmentally friendly, please visit:


SOURCE: Redfin