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The comprehensive costs of housing

Detailed CPI data on shelter, utilities, and furnishings

Paying for the place where you live—categorized as “shelter” in the consumer price index—amounts to 36% of the overall cost of goods and services purchased by an average urban household during a month. However, putting a roof over your head also involves paying for creature comforts such as heating and cooling, utilities, furniture, appliances, and operations. Together, those expenses amount to an additional 9% of the overall consumer price index. Today we look at recent housing inflation for both shelter and making that shelter habitable.

The FRED graph above shows consumer price index (CPI) data on housing expenses organized in four categories:

  • Shelter (dashed blue line) includes rent, owner’s equivalent rent of residences, lodging away from home, and home insurance.
  • Services (red line) includes water, sewer, and trash collection.
  • Furnishings and operations (green line) includes furniture, appliances, housekeeping supplies, and a variety of items and services.
  • Energy (purple line) includes fuel oil, gas, and electricity.

We customized all the data to have a value of 100 in April 2020, the end of the COVID-19-induced recession, to facilitate the analysis of housing costs over time. The data plot shows that, over the past four years, shelter became 23% more expensive and the cost of furnishing and operations and paying for non-energy utilities kept roughly that same pace.

Energy inflation has been a different story: As of the latest available observation, heating, cooling, cooking, and running electric appliances is, on average, 33% more expensive than four years ago, although those costs have come down from their peak in January 2023.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Shelter in U.S. City Average.” Next, click the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to add the other three CPI series: “Water and Sewer and Trash Collection Services,” “Household Furnishings and Operations,” and “Energy.” Next, use the “Edit Lines” tab to change the units to “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date)” and under “Select a date that will equal 100 for your custom index:” enter “2020-04-01.” Last, click on “Copy to all” to apply that unit customization to all series in the graph.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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