However, transit expansions and other major public investment projects can also have unintended consequences. The escalation of property values can lead to rent and home price increases that can worsen the cost burden of low- and moderate-income households and potentially lead to displacement. Therefore, it is important to coordinate housing and transportation planning and investment. Creating incentives and financing mechanisms for affordable housing and community development near transit can both improve a transit project’s financial viability (by stabilizing ridership) and ensure that the benefits of the investment are equitably distributed.
Investments in housing, transportation, infrastructure and economic development need to be coordinated as early in the planning process as is possible. Affordable housing preservation and development costs can be significantly reduced if property can be purchased prior to the onset of price escalations. One way to promote early, coordinated planning would be to incorporate affordable housing and community development factors into the rating criteria for transit programs. Last year, Enterprise joined the National Housing Conference and Habitat for Humanity in calling for such criteria to be added to the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program (read the full comment letter). Federal initiatives, such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities also support the coordinated planning efforts that can advance this goal.
Local communities can also promote transit-oriented community development in a number of ways. Jurisdictions can adopt inclusionary zoning policies or set up tax increment financing districts (for a more detailed discussion of local policies, see CHP Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell’s blog post on the subject). Governments, nonprofits and community development financial institutions (CDFIs) can also work to provide financing for TOD projects. As an example, Enterprise and other local entities set up the Denver TOD Fund to support the expansion of the city’s rail system. We are also a partner in the Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund in Northern California, and we are working with local leaders to provide financing in other cities. Implementing these strategies can be difficult and require a significant amount of financial, political and human capital. However, with strong leadership communities can employ a variety of tools to ensure that transit investments have an equitable impact on all people.
Michael Spotts (biography) is a Policy Analyst for Enterprise Community Partners. At Enterprise he conducts research and analysis of laws and regulations related to affordable housing and community development policies, with a primary focus on sustainable community development and transit-oriented development (TOD).