Jobs-Housing Balance

From HousingWiki

The jobs-housing balance is the ratio of jobs to housing in a given metro sub-area. It could be considered at the metro/regional level, or that of a municipality, or that of a "commuteshed" or area linked by commuter transit means. 

If jobs-housing balance is too high, adequate housing may be unaffordable or unavailable to workers in that area, leading to issues such as housing unaffordability and traffic congestion from in-commuting workers.  if jobs-housing balance is too low, this may indicate inadequate job availability for area residents.

Origin, definition, purposes

The concept was apparently first published in Cervero [1989], focusing on congestion and environmental concerns attributable to increasing mismatch between the locations of job and of housing affordable to those holding those jobs 

Cervero [1989] abstract: 

"Despite the steady migration of jobs to the suburbs over the past decade, many suburban residents commute farther than ever. In this article I attribute the widening separation of suburban workplaces and the residences of suburban workers to several factors: fiscal and exclusionary zoning that results in an undersupply of housing; rents and housing costs that price many service workers out of the local residential market; and several demographic trends, including the growth in dual wage-earner households and career shifts. Case studies of metropolitan Chicago and San Francisco confirm the displacing effects of high housing costs and housing shortages. In addition, data from over 40 major suburban employment centers in the United States show that suburban workplaces with severe jobs-housing imbalances tend to have low shares of workers making walking and cycling trips and high levels of congestion on connecting freeways. I argue that inclusionary zoning, tax-base sharing, fair-sharing housing programs, and a number of incentive-base programs could reduce hobs-housing mismatches and go a long way toward safeguarding regional mobility for years to come."

Cervero describes the potential benefits of better job-housing balance as follows: 

"What benefits would accrue from balancing job and housing growth? For one, commute distances would be shortened and the share of nonmotorized trips, namely those made my walking and cycling, would increase. In addition, the number of miles logged on areawide roads each day would fall, as would energy consumption and the emission of vehicle pollutants. Perhaps equally important, jobs-housing balance would produce well-defined commutesheds wherein local neighborhood traffic is segregated from regional through-traffic...With shorter journeys, neighborhood streets would handle a greater share, albeit not necessarily a greater volume, of work trips while removing some cars from already over-burdened regional thoroughfares. Last, jobs-housing balance could promote larger social objectives. The provision of affordable housing closer to suburban job centers would vastly increase the residential opportunities of America's working class and would help reduce housing discrimination. In sum, many of the nation's most pressing and persistent metropolitan concerns -- congestion, energy depletion, air pollution, sprawl, and class segregation -- would be relieved by balancing job and housing growth." 


Housing affordability and adequate employment issues:  

When the goal is affordability, the jobs housing balance can be too high, or to low. If the ratio is too high, it means that employees have to commute into the metro area, because there are is not enough housing to accomodate all of the workers. Also, instead of commuting, people might crowd into housing that wasn't intended to house so many people, or live in RVs or in their cars on the roadways. 

On the other end, the jobs-housing balance can also be too low. If there is less than one job per housing unit, then that means that many people, who may have housing, will have trouble paying for it no matter how cheap it seems because the adults in the household have only part time work or no work at all.

According to the Building Industry Association, experts say that a healthy jobs-housing balance is 1.5. (One full time job and one part time job per housing unit.) ([1] BIA Bay Area Flyer, August 3, 2017)

Bay Area JH Balance 

Building Industry Association dashboard

Every seven years the Bay Area MTC creates "Plan Bay Area" which is a regional plan for housing growth. It assigns Bay Area regions housing growth targets based on expected job growth in each region. The BIA prepared a spreadsheet showing how well ten counties did in meeting their housing growth targets for the last seven years: 2017-06 June Dashboard Housing vs Jobs Tally.
This uses monthly housing unit permit data provided by California Construction Industry Research Board, and monthly jobs data provided by the California Employment Development Department. 

YIMBYwiki current JH Balance estimate by county

YIMBYwiki prepared a slightly revised presentation of the BIA spreadsheet to highlight the apparent current Bay Area Jobs Housing Balance shown by this data. 2017-06 Bay Area Dashboard - Housing vs Jobs.  Snapshot of this below. Note that for housing units, it uses units permitted since 2010, which can be substantially different than units built; because this is the available data.

2017 06 BIA Bay Area dashboard housing vs jobs JHBalance.jpg

Silicon Valley @Home figures for Santa Clara County cities

Silicon Valley @Home has 2014 data for Santa Clara county, at: [1] -> Jurisdictions, showing the following for each city in the county: 
  • population
  • households
  • Employed Residents
  • Jobs 
  • Housing units
  • Employed Residents per Household
  • Jobs per Employed Resident (aka #JERratio)
  • Jobs Housing Balance Ratio
  • Low-Wage Jobs-Housing Fit Ratio
  • 2015 Homeless Count (point in time)
  • Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) 

Curbed San Francisco 2016 study

Curbed San Francisco in 2016 did a study purporting to present Jobs Housing Balance, but the data is presents compares Bay Area counties' housing units to their employed residents, which is not how JH Balance is generally defined. In JH Balance, the balance in question is where the jobs are relative to the housing, which is not addressed by the Curbed analysis. 

Kevin Burke's data gathering

California job numbers by County, Metropolitan Statistical Area, Local Workforce Development Area, and Sub-County Place (i.e. city, town, or Census-Designated Place); for 1990-2016.

Jobs data comes from

"Jobs" is counting the number of employed people.

Housing numbers come from, which are saved as the Excel spreadsheet here:

Data Sources


1. Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS):
a Federal-State cooperative effort in which monthly estimates of total employment and unemployment are prepared for areas including County, Metropolitan Statistical Area, Local Workforce Development Area, and Sub-County Place (i.e. city, town, or Census-Designated Place);

LAUS for California, 1990-2016:

2. Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD) Origin-Destination Employment Statistics Dataset (LODES), Workplace Area Characteristics file,

published by the U.S. Census and available for download here: 
It includes all employment covered by the Unemployment Insurance system, along with Federal Government employment. It excludes self-employed workers.  
Since its reference point is essentially jobs held on April 1st each year, it undercounts seasonable employment in other times of the year, which is especially relevant for the San Joaquin
Valley, which has high levels of seasonal farm work that is not well captured in this dataset. 

This dataset is used by Chris Benner in his 2016 work on Jobs-Housing Fit.


American Community Survey, 5-year files.  (Used by Benner [2016] for Jobs-Housing Fit





See also 

  • Jobs-Housing Fit - a refinement of the Jobs-Housing Balance concept that considers also the types of jobs and housing available.