Study Examines Neighborhood Walkability and Quality of HUD-Assisted Housing

A study from Arizona State University entitled, Affordable Housing and Walkable Neighborhoods: A National Urban Analysis, shows that 23% of all renter occupied housing in the United States is located in neighborhoods with walkable access to services and amenities, including schools, parks, and grocery stores. HUD-assisted housing, such as Public Housing and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) units, are more likely to be in walkable neighborhoods, but are also more likely to be in less desirable, low quality walkable neighborhoods.

The national study found that 37% of public housing, 30% of PBRA units, 22% of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units and 23% of Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) are located in walkable neighborhoods, shown by previous research to be beneficial for residents’ social interaction and health. However, the authors ask whether the benefits of walkability may be offset by other neighborhood characteristics, such as poor quality schools, environmental problems, and racial segregation. They found that HUD-assisted housing was more likely to be in neighborhoods with poor quality schools, lower home values, and segregation of minorities. Three percent of all rental units were located in walkable but low quality neighborhoods, as compared to 12% of public housing, 6% of PBRA housing, 5% of LIHTC units, and 5% of HCVs. Twenty percent of all rental units were located in walkable neighborhoods that were not low quality, as compared to 24% of public housing, 24% of PBRA units, 17% of LIHTC units, and 18% of HCVs. Five percent of all rental units were in neighborhoods with the worst combination, no walkable access and low quality, as compared to 13% of public housing units, 9% of PBRA units, 9% of LIHTC units, and 10% of HCVs.

The authors recommend that federal funding be used to support development of affordable housing in walkable neighborhoods that do not have negative characteristics and steered away from neighborhoods without walkable access and other negative characteristics.

To conduct the study, the authors assessed the neighborhood environment of 5,797,058 HUD-assisted rental units in the 359 U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas. They used data from HUD, Walk Score, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GreatSchools, InfoUSA, CoreLogic, the 2010 U.S. Census, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Neighborhood walkability was measured by the presence of amenities (including stores, parks, schools, and entertainment) within 0.25 miles, intersection density, and block length.

Affordable Housing and Walkable Neighborhoods: A National Urban Analysis is available at