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New report: Tampa Bay area still a bargain compared to other regions

Lower than average costs for housing and utilities helped give the area that includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties a relatively low cost of living.
Relatively low costs for housing and utilities last year gave the Tampa Bay area one of the lowest overall costs of living in the country, according to a new analysis from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. (Times files
Relatively low costs for housing and utilities last year gave the Tampa Bay area one of the lowest overall costs of living in the country, according to a new analysis from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. (Times files
Published Feb. 4, 2019

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area's housing costs have been on the rise, but in 2018 they were still lower than in other metropolitan areas around Florida and beyond, according to a new analysis.

The analysis shows that the bay area last year was one of the nation's most affordable areas to live.

The Tampa metro area, which includes Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties, had a relatively low cost of living thanks largely to its below-average costs for housing and utilities.

"Tampa scores lowest in housing and second lowest in utilities" when compared with a dozen large metro areas nationwide and another dozen around Florida, said Robin DiSalvo, marketing research analyst for the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and the author of the report. "With housing costs making up most of one's living expenses, this favorable average puts Tampa at a great advantage compared to the other major metros across the country."

Every quarter analysts such as DiSalvo survey businesses from grocery stores to health care providers to hair salons on their prices and report the results to the nonprofit Council for Community and Economic Research, based outside Washington D.C. in Arlington, Va. The council compiles information on groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, which are all weighted differently, and provides the data to its member communities for city-by-city comparisons through its cost of living index.

On the index, 100 is the average of the prices reported for all consumer goods and services in the participating areas. The Tampa Bay area's costs of living overall were lower than the average at 89.1 on that 100-point scale. The only category where costs around Tampa Bay exceeded the national average last year was for groceries.

In Florida, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville had the next-lowest costs of living last year, while Fort Lauderdale had the highest. Nationally, Raleigh, N.C. and Jacksonville had the next-lowest costs of living, while Denver was the most expensive place to live. The national peer group that the bay area topped also included Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, Austin, Nashville, Atlanta and Dallas.

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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