Originally created 07/18/02

City's cost of living below average



Augusta's cost of living is about 7 percent below the national average, mostly because of what analysts called "ridiculously low" housing costs, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by Georgia Southwestern State University's Center for Business and Economic Development, showed Augusta's housing costs during first quarter 2002 to be 78 percent of the country's average.

The typical house sought by middle-management types - defined as 2,400 square feet of living space on an 8,000-square-foot lot in an urban area - costs about $175,000 in Augusta. A similar house would cost $222,000 in Atlanta and $237,000 in Savannah.

The same house in parts of Chicago costs $568,000 and in New York City's Manhattan district, almost $900,000, according to the survey.

Economists credit Augusta's low housing costs to more supply than demand.

"All things being equal, you're probably better off living in the Augusta area than anywhere else in the state," said Mark Grimes, the center's project manager. "It's something economic developers and staffing companies can really use to their advantage."

Charles Scavullo Jr., branch manager at Adecco Employment Services in Augusta, said cost of living is a major selling point when trying to entice skilled workers to the area.

Bryan Quinsey, executive director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, said business owners are often "floored" when they see how cheap housing is in Augusta.

"I was just talking with a guy moving here from California," Mr. Quinsey said. "He told me he could sell his house out there, buy a much nicer house out here and still have money left over. So, yeah, it's a huge selling point."

AUGUSTA'S NUMBERS

A recent study showing the cost of living in Augusta to be 7 percent below the national average broke the subject down into six categories. Here is how Augusta ranks in each of those categories, in relation to the national average:

HOUSING: 78 percent

HEALTH CARE: 91 percent

UTILITIES: 94 percent

MISCELLANEOUS GOODS: 96 percent

TRANSPORTATION: 99 percent

GROCERY ITEMS: 106 percent

*Housing and miscellaneous goods account for about half of an area's cost of living.

Source: Georgia Southwestern State University Center for Business and Economic Development

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or john.banks@augustachronicle.com.