If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home By Now: A Cautionary TOD Tale

Everywhere we go we hear about transit-oriented development: bringing the home closer to the transit hub. Not only does TOD offer an opportunity to fix up areas near the rails, but it also provides a chance for localities to increase ratables with market-rate housing, while fulfilling social (and often mandated) goals like increasing affordable units, workforce housing, create retail space, etc.

It sounds great, and it often is, until you run into that old story line, where, once again, the possibility is there that all this wonderful redevelopment actually increases property values, thus increasing the value of market rate housing, negating the ability for lower-income people to live there. “Redevelopment” really is all too often a four-letter word.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently published a report that finds that “higher land and housing values have the potential to limit the availability of affordable housing near transit, but other factors — such as transit routing decisions and local commitment to affordable housing — can also affect availability.”

That report links to another study conducted by the National Housing Trust, Reconnecting America, and AARP that warns that in “next five years as many as 160,000 renters in 20 metro areas could lose their affordable apartments near transit because the contracts on their privately-owned HUD-subsidized rental units are due to expire,” potentially prohibiting even more low-income renters from keeping their affordable housing near transit, if landlords choose to raise rents.

The fed introduced earlier this year policy that addresses housing and transportation in the form of “sustainable communities,” but the GAO is recommending that HUD offer up interagency strategies to address affordable housing and transportation if TOD is going to be truly sustainable in the long-term.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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