A new report from Reconnecting America tracks access to opportunity in metropolitan areas across the country. Each of 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are graded according to a set of 33 indicators, focusing on education, jobs, affordable housing, health services, transportation, cultural amenities and outdoor spaces. These indicators track each region’s progress towards being a “complete community,” a term used in the report to describe communities that provide access to economic and health opportunities for all people, regardless of income level.
Reconnecting America selected indicators from four broad categories: living, working, moving, and thriving. Living indicators included measurements of low income households’ access to transit and affordable housing near transit. The working indicators include the percent of low to moderate income jobs accessible via transit, and the percent of young adults with at least a college degree. Moving indicators include various measures of commuting and the average vehicle miles traveled per household. Finally, the thriving indicators measure the percentage of low income households living near parks, and the concentration of fast food restaurants in any given area.
The section on living indicators discusses the growing need for affordable housing, driven by the increased demand for rental housing since the recession. As the demand for rental housing rises, low income households will face fewer vacancies and higher rents, according to research cited in the report. The indicator data are accompanied by case studies illustrating innovative programs and policies. For example, to address the affordable housing shortage near transit in San Francisco, the city established a $50 million Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund. The city created this revolving loan fund through a partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, as well as philanthropies and private investors.
Study authors note that 58% of federally subsidized housing units in “opportunity areas” have contracts that will expire in five years and are at risk of losing affordability. Opportunity areas as defined by the authors have crucial infrastructure, making them likely to become “complete communities” with valuable assets in the future. In these areas, additional resources are needed to preserve affordable housing and ensure longer term access to opportunity for low income households.
Click here for the report.
Click here for the associated data, ranking each metropolitan area.
In addition, Reconnecting America provides access to a database of case studies highlighting innovative policies implemented nationwide. Click here for the database of stories.