Communicating the Benefits of Equitable Transit-Oriented Development through Evaluation Metrics and Data
By Michael Spotts
As Congress continues to debate the appropriate size and scope of the federal government, one thing is for sure – an era of fiscal austerity is beginning that will have a significant impact on regions and organizations that utilize federal funds. Tighter budgets will surely create a more competitive appropriations environment. Therefore, it is crucial that practitioners are able to justify continued funding for their work through quantifiable and robust metrics. Equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) has the benefit of advancing multiple policy objectives simultaneously: for instance, making efficient use of infrastructure, reducing the combined housing and transportation costs of low-income households, connecting people at all income levels to economic opportunity and services, reducing energy usage and environmental impacts, and increasing/stabilizing transit ridership.
Hypothesizing that these benefits are true is simply not enough. Practitioners have to provide data that explicitly demonstrate the benefits of equitable transit-oriented development to ensure that programs survive among various policy priorities. In order to meet this goal, several organizations have taken the lead in sustainability and TOD research. The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation (H + T) Affordability Index , which takes a more comprehensive look at the costs associated with housing location, is perhaps the most prominent of these efforts. Reconnecting America, Strategic Economics and the Center for Transit-Oriented Development have released a number of thorough reports and analyses of TOD-related issues. The Enterprise Green Communities initiative (which supports location-efficient, green and healthy housing) has gathered data and published reports on the utility cost savings and health benefits of green affordable housing. The National Housing Trust has examined how states are prioritizing their Low Income Housing Tax Credit allocations to promote the preservation of affordable units near transit. Finally, the Center for Housing Policy has released reports and blog posts connecting TOD data and principles to policy solutions.
The next step is for policymakers and advocates to fully utilize this information. Jurisdictions should embrace the use of new metrics such as the H + T Index in prioritizing and evaluating community development projects. Government and private funders should work together to synthesize this wealth of information and create common criteria to make reporting requirements more efficient and less confusing. Finally, advocates should use this research and analysis to craft a compelling narrative that affordable, healthy housing with access to transit services is an integral part of the social safety net (along with entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare) for low- and moderate-income households.
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).
This blog is a the collective work of various Rail~Volution organizers, presenters, speakers, and volunteers. During the coming months, we will use this space to post items of interest for conference-goers visiting DC, for local stakeholders interested in liveable communities, and for Rail~Volution participants to offer a preview of their content for the 2011 conference.