Here, Chicago’s housing stock peers include a number of smaller Northeastern cities, like Providence, RI, New Britain, CT, and Albany, NY.  That puts it in quite a different category than where many urban analysts might put it, in the select group of high-priced and displacement-anxious cities of the east and west coasts.  Surprisingly, Chicago’s housing has less in common with not only major coastal cities like Washington, DC and San Francisco, but also its Midwestern neighbors like Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis or Milwaukee.  This result underscores the value of tool.

There are some early limitations of the tool.  New York City is notably absent from the database, as are Indianapolis and Jacksonville.  Perhaps data limitations (New York is a municipality comprised of five counties, while, Indianapolis and Jacksonville are consolidated city-county municipalities) played some role in their omission.  Also, because the Chicago Fed staff elected to focus on cities that had at least 50,000 people in 1960, it misses out on some of the significantly sized cities of today.  Many of the “boomburbs” that saw explosive growth over the last 30-40 years, like a Mesa, AZ, or Henderson, NV, are also not included.  As these communities mature and become more urban in character, they may find such a tool useful in guiding their transformation.

The Chicago Fed is committed to updating the tool annually, and to adding cities and data with each update.  Ideally, that means the tool becomes stronger and more meaningful over time.  If so, here’s hoping that the tool can be the starting point for future discussions between communities, and appropriate solutions to their challenges.