Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guest Blogger Melinda Pollack: Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit

Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit Report
When we think about transit-oriented development (TOD) we typically think of new, high-density development near a rail or subway station. Affordable housing doesn't usually jump out at us. But it should. In a new study, Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit, Enterprise, NHT and Reconnecting America looked at four cities that are leading the charge in maintaining housing near public transportation for their most vulnerable residents.

The case studies seek to highlight strong examples of how regions are ensuring its citizens will have access to rental homes they can afford and the transit they need.

The study focuses on Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Each city has plans to expand its public transportation systems, and is actively working to ensure that families and individuals with low-and moderate-incomes will have access to affordable apartments near jobs, educational institutions, grocery stores, medical facilities and cultural and entertainment centers.

TOD introduces complex questions about how to best preserve housing located in areas that may currently - or will soon - be located in areas that can justify much greater density. Should housing always be rehabilitated? Can preservation in transit areas be defined as one-for-one replacement, or the creation of new affordable housing at higher densities? Should we emphasize the preservation of units that were previously unsubsidized if they are at-risk as communities gentrify and become more expensive as a result of transit access?

So how should regions address these challenges? Each region has different resources available to them, but a few broad suggestions derived from the report are:
1) tap zoning and related incentives to lower capital cost of affordable housing near transit;
2) seek flexible acquisition financing to hold properties until financing is available; and
3) encourage joint land use and transit planning at a regional level to guide equitable development and investment in preservation. 
These concepts were explored at this week's symposium in Denver, Partners in Innovation: Including Affordable Workforce Housing within Transit Oriented Development.

If you would like a copy of the study, please visit www.greencommunitiesonline.org beginning on Monday, September 27.

Melinda Pollack is the Director, Vulnerable Populations at Enterprise Community Partners. Enterprise Community Partners is a national nonprofit with more than 25 years of experience in the community development and affordable housing field. 

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