Building affordable housing around transit: plan ahead and spread it out


Transit-oriented development near the Othello Station in Southeast Seattle. (Photo: SounderBruce, Wikimedia Commons)

Last week, we had an opportunity to connect with some members of the TOD Peer Network in person at the 2018 LOCUS Leadership Summit. In asking about the challenges they faced at home, one issue came up again and again: affordable housing.

One session at the Summit about zoning for revitalization without displacement addressed the issue head on. Harriet Tregoning, a former official in the Office of Community Planning at HUD, simply said, “Start sooner and plan for success.” Getting ahead of the curve and planning for affordable housing before new transit service arrives is key. “If you plan for success and it takes a few more years [for new development to arrive], the cost is pretty small.” But if you miss the chance and don’t have the zoning in place that allows for the type of development a community needs and the density to support transit, “the results can be devastating.”

It’s not just about building affordable housing though. Where that housing is located is equally important. Tregoning talked about how developers will often push back on requirements for affordable housing in expensive neighborhoods, and may even promise more affordable units if they can build in adjacent or nearby areas (that are cheaper) instead. That might make sense until, as a result, all affordable housing is concentrated in the same few areas.

This point echoed one made during the conference keynote by Majora Carter, a leading urban revitalization strategy consultant and real estate developer, who laid out exactly why that’s a problem. “When you concentrate poverty,” Carter said, “you concentrate all of the issues associated with it…you exacerbate poorer health outcomes, lower rates of educational attainment, higher rates of all the things associated with the prison industrial complex, and most importantly the lack of hope that is experienced in those communities where they [have been told] they’re doomed to failure.”

You can watch Majora Carter’s entire keynote online where she discusses how we can better grow and develop “low-class” communities by recognizing the value and talent of the people who already live there. And in the TODresources library you can find dozens of resources on housing that address everything from community-driven planning processes, to affordable housing as a carbon pollution mitigation strategy, to various funding strategies. You can also see our post from last week that dove into value capture as a way to raise revenue which could be used to support affordable housing.

Recent TOD news

Here are a few things that have been happening this week with TOD projects across the country.

  • Sound Transit’s Plans for Facilitating Housing Near Transit (Seattle Weekly)
  • Ride Hailing Could Be Affecting Transit Proximate Property Values (Curbed)
  • $1B Real Estate Boom for Battered Newark Station (Bloomberg)
  • 24-Story High Rise Breaks Ground Near MacArthur BART (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Sunnyside Yard 180 Acre Megaproject No Longer a Pipe Dream (Curbed NY)