Two recent reports emphasize the need to preserve and construct affordable housing around new and proposed Transit Oriented Developments. Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods, by Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, examines changes in 42 communities that received their first rail transit station from 1990 to 2000. Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit, by Enterprise Community Partners, looks at the efforts of four cities to preserve affordable housing around transit hubs.
As property values rise around new mixed-use projects, affordable housing units likely will be at risk. Both reports explain the importance of maintaining affordable homes in communities near transit, both to preserve the community of low-income households existing prior to transit construction and attract new tenants as a strong base for regular ridership. Using 1990 and 2000 Census data to compare changes in transit-rich neighborhoods to their Metropolitan Statistical Areas, the Dukakis report found that the median gross rent of 74% of the communities studied increased faster in the former.
The Enterprise report points out cases where owners of affordable units, prompted by increasing property values, considered converting their properties to market-rate rentals or condominiums. It examines 12 transit-adjacent housing projects across four cities, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, and Washington, DC. The researchers then looked at the methods that local governments, community groups, and advocates used to preserve the units and continue their affordability.
Both reports include tools that communities can use to protect affordable housing near proposed and existing transit stations. Some suggestions include acquiring at-risk properties before market speculation increases property values, developing community benefit agreements between developers and community coalitions, explaining affordable housing construction requirements, and leveraging Tenant First Right to Purchase laws to preserve affordability.
As transit-oriented developments become more popular among U.S. cities, the reports note the importance of identifying projects early and striking partnerships with developers and the community to preserve housing affordability and generate new low income housing stock.
The Dukakis report can be found at www.dukakiscenter.org/TRNEquity
To read the Enterprise report, go to www.practitionerresources.org/cache/documents/674/67410.pdf