- Americans are facing a housing affordability crisis. This is driven by a severe underproduction of housing. According to Up for Growth National Coalition’s Housing Underproduction in the U.S. report, the U.S. fell 7.3 million homes short of meeting housing need from 2000 – 2015.1
- This undersupply of housing and the resulting affordability crisis are particularly acute in walkable, transit-served locations. Demand for these walkable, transit-oriented urban spaces has increased, but housing production has not followed due, in large part, to artificial barriers.2
- 47% of renter households are cost-burdened,3 paying more than 30% of their income to housing costs, in part because of housing underproduction. For many households, transportation costs represent the second largest expenditure, which can be lowered when these households gain access to high quality transit services.
- The U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration (FTA) allocates around $2.3 billion each year to fixed-guideway transit projects, which include light, rapid, and commuter rail and street cars.4
- These transit areas are often underdeveloped and consequently suboptimize ridership potential. This underdevelopment means that transit areas are unable to fulfill the promise of affordability benefits, particularly to low-income households.
- Why is this? One reason for the underproduction of housing near transit is the way that federal dollars are currently allocated. Evaluations for transit projects do not accurately consider how various factors contribute to or stymie development. Without holistic evaluations, the door is open for ineffective or inefficient projects to receive funding while projects that support better housing solutions lose out.
- In order to ensure that FTA transit investments fulfill the original promise of a federal transit capital program that would “help shape as well as serve urban growth,” 5 The Build More Housing Near Transit Act changes Title 49 U.S. Code § 5309 to direct the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to:
- Provide a fast-track approval incentive to transit agencies that holistically evaluate feasibility of housing development along proposed transit projects;
- Provide bonus points in scoring of applications where transit agencies secure a commitment of local land use policies in project station areas that accommodate financially and physically feasible affordable and market-rate housing; and,
- Allow transit agencies to count federal affordable housing funding sources as part of the local funding match requirement to the extent that such affordable housing funding serves projects located in the walksheds of proposed transit project station areas.
- Improved quantitative analysis of FTA projects will optimize the efficiency of projects and increase the supply of housing in walkable, transit-served areas. Revisions to the project evaluations will help to ensure that federal dollars are used effectively.
- Transit is critical for connecting people to economic opportunities, but the benefits of transit are not fully realized when its stops are not located close to a high concentration of housing. Land use policies that allow an adequate supply of housing near transit-served areas will increase ridership and allow more people to access jobs and amenities.
- Transit has a positive environmental impact through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, more compact land use, and a reduction of cars on the road. The increased ridership that comes from easier access to transit-centers will help maximize the environmental benefits of public transit.
- Public transit is critical in connecting employees to jobs and allowing communities to thrive. Increasing accessibility to transit by improving the housing supply in transit-served areas will increase economic output and productivity. 6
- Revising transit project evaluations creates a race to the top that drives communities to align land use and housing policies with transportation investments while maximizing the utility of precious federal transit dollars.
1 Up for Growth (2019) “Housing Production in the U.S.” Retrieved from: https://www.upforgrowth.org/new-report-indicates-housing-shortage-more-severe-once-thought
2 Hadden Loh, Tracy, Christopher Leinberger, and Jordan Chafetz (2019). “Foot Traffic Ahead: Ranking Walkable Urbanism.” The George Washington University School of Business and Smart Growth America.
3 Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (2019). “The State of the Nation’s Housing Crisis 2019.” Retrieved from: https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/Harvard_JCHS_State_of_the_Nations_Housing_2019.pdf
4 United States Department of Transportation “Federal Transit Administration Fact Sheet.” Retrieved from: https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/5309_Capital_Investment_Grant_Fact_Sheet.pdf
5 Federal Transit Authority (2017). “A Brief History of Mass Transit. President John F. Kennedy, 1962. Retrieved from: https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/brief-history-mass-transit
6 Chatman, Daniel & Robert Noland (2013). “Transit Service, Physical Agglomeration and Productivity in US Metropolitan Areas.” Urban Studies. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0042098013494426?papetoc=
7 Zhao, Fran & Thomas Gustafson (2013). “Transportation Needs of Disadvantaged Populations: Where, When, and How?” Federal Transportation Administration Research. Retrieved from: https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/FTA_Report_No._0030.pdf
8 Cervero, Robert (2007). “Transit Oriented Development’s Ridership Bonus: A Product of Self-Selection and Public Policies.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. Retrieved from: https://journals.sagepub.com/