HousingPolicy.org Forum

Join us Wednesday, November 4 from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. PDT) to learn more about a new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the National Housing Trust and Reconnecting America, Preserving Affordability and Access in Livable Communities, and get answers to your questions from authors of the report.

  • Hear about the report: The two-part event begins at 2:30 p.m. EDT (11:30 a.m. PDT) with a 30-minute conference call, where major findings from the report will be presented by authors Rodney Harrell, Allison Brooks, and Todd Nedwick. The call-in number is (712) 432-1001 and the access code is 498796833#.

  • Interact with the authors: Immediately following the call, from 3 - 4:30 p.m. EDT, authors of the report will be online to answer your questions. All questions for the authors should be posted to this thread, and you are welcome to post at any time leading up to or during the event. Questions will be answered on a first-come, first-served basis until time runs out, so post early to be sure yours is addressed.

Thank you to all who participated in this Live At the Forum event. Audio from the conference call portion of the event can be accessed here.

About the Report

Preserving affordable housing near transit is one of the challenges that communities must address to increase livability and ensure adequate mobility options and access to supportive services for all people, regardless of age or physical ability. Because housing near transportation is desirable, property values tend to rise over time reducing the incentive for property owners to accept federal subsidies to keep housing affordable. This study analyzes the location of affordable housing in 20 metropolitan areas by mapping federally subsidized rental apartments within certain distances of transit. The study uses five areas as case studies—including site visits and interviews with residents 50 and older—to provide more information on the challenges and benefits of different locations of affordable housing.

While a substantial number of affordable apartments are located near public transit in these 20 metropolitan areas, more than two thirds of the federal subsidies that keep these apartments affordable will expire within the next five years. Among the report's conclusions are that subsidized housing near transit meets a crucial need for residents with few housing options; and that affordable housing must be both well served by quality public transit and within walkable distances of amenities and services to benefit older residents. The report contains policy recommendations for federal, state, and local policy makers to ensure that these areas provide affordable housing and transportation options in addition to a range of features that allow people to retain independence as they age.

Click here to read the report and related policy brief, or click here to access resources from a related event, "Getting it Right: Smart Housing and Transportation Planning for Livable Communities," including a webcast of the event and related fact sheets.

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Replies to This Discussion

The report includes a figure about who benefits the most from housing near transit. While the policy solutions in the report push for transit-oriented developments, how do older households in living in areas with "high amounts of limitations" cope with meeting their transit and other service needs? How can communities meet the needs of these older adults, especially in rural areas?
It is challenging to provide efficient transit service in places with more dispersed populations. That said, rural communities and places with transportation limitations can focus on creating nodes of activities that will serve to bring people together and provide services and amenities in one localized place. For example, having special events, health services, farmers markets, book fairs, etc, in centralized locations in a community at specific days and times can help people plan their rides, put less of a stress of paratransit, help provide public transportation to get people from where they are to where they need to go. Rural and suburban places can do a better job of creating these more compact nodes of activity, rather than allowing the sprawl of big box retail and other services that make it incredibly difficult for a person with limited transportation means to take care of errands and other needs through paratransit or through relying on friends and family. The cost of driving can also be a burden on those with a limited income.
These are very good questions and tough challenges for communities.

(The figure that Emily references is on page 33 of the report, and describes the differences between situations where housing near transit provided minimal benefits or greater benefits)

First, the key to areas with a high amount of limitations is that they can significantly reduce the amount of limitations with the right policy changes. Implementing complete streets policies, adhering to ADA requirements (and even exceeding requirements with good sidewalks, waiting areas, etc.) can reduce the problems associated with individdual physical limitiations, as can improving the reliability of the transit service. For those who do not understand the system, good, clear, easy to understand signage and documents can address the needs of many who do not understand the system.

For the community-level limitations, we argue for good planning practices that lead to mixed-use, walkable communties. Improving the local economy can be tough, but if cities can create enough shopping and other services nearby, residents will benefit. On the transportation side, improving and developing well-planned transit networks and transit systems with highly-trained employees that are sensitive to the needs of older adults, will lead to frequent, reliable, and accessible service that will take anyone to the places that they need to go.

In these ways, a metropolitan area can reduce limitations and more people can maximize the benefits of housing that is near transit. I look at "housing near transit" as just a starting point with many potential benefits. Communities must put the pieces together so that people of all ages and incomes can maximize those benefits.

While we don't focus on rural areas in the paper, the same principles apply. Just as older "far from transit" residents on the fringes of metroplitan areas were often isolated and lacking benefits, so are those in rural areas who are far from town with no way to get to the things they need. Just as those in downtown areas (such as Minneapolis) had access to more shopping, restaurants, cultural and religious centers, etc., those in rural communities may benefit from being closer to town. Placing "senior housing" on the outskirts of town is the problem - residents can benefit from being more connected. If there is local bus service in these areas, they should meet the needs of older adults as well.

My recommedation is that older persons need a range of adequate options, in urban, suburban and rural areas, and the needs of older adults in the areas of housing, transportation and land use should be considered along with those of younger persons - this is behind our principle of integrating housing, transportation, and land use. Our recommendations are not limited to urban or suburban areas - these policies should always be addressed in a comprehensive manner, and should take into account the needs of all. While the policies and strategies may change, the considerations should remain the same
The report talks about the importance of preserving affordable housing near transit and in walkable communities. In your report, you analyze subsidized properties within 1/2 mile of transit nodes but also use a 1/4 mile radius under the assumption that older adults may not walk as far to use public transit. Does it follow that researchers and policymakers need to define the expressions "near transit" and "walkable communities" differently for older adults than for the rest of the population? And are there any studies that evaluate how far older adults are willing to walk to access public transit?
Usually, TOD is measured as a half-mile radius. As you note, we used both the 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile measure for our statistical analysis to make sure that the "near transit" was relevant to older adults. There have been a few studies that evalute the willingness of older adults to walk, but the ones that I have seen usually focus on the time it takes to walk.

Researchers and policymakers do need to use more than the common 1/2 mile radius to measure these areas, but one of our findings was that when places are well designed, older persons (including some of the 80+ population) can benefit from transit that was 1/2 mile away. Well-designed areas with well-designed sidewalks, places to sit and rest if necessary and destinations for shopping, eating, etc. can make a longer walk much more reasonable. We need to look at both the 1/4mile radius and the 1/2 mile radius for transit, but also on the development patterns and amenities within that area.

Finally, I'll make a plug for "complete streets" policies that ensure that the right-of-way is benefits all users, whether they are walking, driving, bicycling, using wheelchairs, etc. We need these and similar policies for TOD that encompass the needs of all.
Transportation Infrastructure (roads & transit) are generally created to facilitate development. Yet, the result is often a sharp rise in land speculation & prices near interchanges and transit stations that drive (affordable) development away to cheaper, more remote sites. Some Pennsylvania jurisdictions (e.g. Harrisburg) have reformed their property taxes by reducing the tax rate on building values and increasing the tax rate on land values. This reduces speculation (and land prices) while also reducing the cost to build, improve and maintain buildings that provide housing or business locations. Should this technique be listed among the policies for more affordable housing and economic development near transit? I have attached a brief article.
Thanks for this example. Its important to identify mechanisms by which jurisdictions can capture the value that is created through public transportation investments, and then reinvesting that value back into those neighborhoods through preservation of existing affordable housing, new affordable housing and other community amenities.
I think that this technique can be thought of as a double benefit. First, the implementation of this property tax reform reduces land and building prices. Thus, even to the extent that subsidies may still be required, those subsidies will go much farther when the market rents are kept down. Second, as you mention, the recaptured values can be used for a variety of community amenities, including housing subsidies.
Can you recommend any resources for housing practitioners and researchers that want to collect data about the at-risk rental housing stock in their communities?
There is a very helpful discussion thread about this subject on this preservation forum. The particular discussion thread is called "States-Localities/At-Risk Housing/Data Collection".

The discussion thread includes a summary of various successful approaches to collecting data on at risk housing and creating "early warning systems". Included is an overview of how the Oregon Housing Acquisition Project has developed a strategy for collecting at risk affordable housing data and their outreach to affordable housing owners. Also included are the approaches of the Shimberg Center in Florida, and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

The discussion thread can be accessed here: http://forum.housingpolicy.org/group/rentalhousingpreservation/foru...
Do rental housing preservation efforts specific to housing for older adults differ from preservation efforts for other types of subsidized units?
The aging in place of older residents often requires owners to address the special needs of this population. Many older adults in affordable housing would benefit if their properties were recapitalized in a manner that better serves the needs of aging seniors for many years, including adding or improving supportive services.


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