Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Blogger: Michael Bodaken on Preserving Opportunities through Transit-Connected Affordable Homes

The Economic Recovery Act will help working families, not only because it invests in affordable housing, but also because it invests $18 billion to improve and expand our nation’s transit systems.

Expanded transit service can mean much needed cost savings for working families. On average, working families spend 57 percent of their incomes on housing and transportation. (Source: Center for Housing Policy’s A Heavy Load report.)

But working families will only realize cost savings if their homes are accessible to transit options. Thus, we must secure and expand affordable housing opportunities near transit to ensure that all benefit.

This goal is not without its challenges. Land near transit enjoys a premium; a premium that will likely grow as demand for homes near transit increases. Reconnecting America reports that demographic changes are expected to double the demand for homes near transit by 2030.

Further complicating the situation is that many existing subsidized apartments located near transit are at risk of being lost over the next five years. The National Housing Trust and Reconnecting America have identified more than 100,000 subsidized apartments within a half mile of light rail in 8 cities. These homes are truly a unique and essential resource. More than 60%, however, have federal contracts expiring over the next five years.

Fortunately, state and local leaders are finding innovative ways to save housing near transit. In Denver, the MacArthur Foundation is helping to establish a $15 million Transit-Oriented Development Fund. It will assist affordable housing providers acquire at risk housing near transit. In Atlanta, an Affordable Housing Trust fund has been set up to ensure that affordable homes exist around the new BeltLine transit system.

We know full well what the future holds for our cities if current trends continue: more walkable, transit rich communities. Unless we take steps to ensure that working families have a place in our revitalized urban centers, they will be forced to the sprawling fringes of our metropolitan areas.

Michael Bodaken currently serves as president of the National Housing Trust.

No comments: