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Realizing The Potential: One Year Later

How has the market downturn played out along five transit corridors in five very different markets?

The Center for Transit-Oriented Development has updated its “Realizing the Potential” study for the FTA and HUD, which assessed strategies to promote mixed-income housing along five transit corridors in Boston, Charlotte, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver and Portland. The new study finds the downturn in the housing market is playing out very differently in the five regions, but that property along transit corridors in Charlotte, Portland and Minneapolis appears to be holding its value better than in the regions at large. The housing market has not been as active along corridors in Denver or Boston, in contrast, because they traverse lower-income neighborhoods and because the many transit corridors in each region spread the TOD opportunity out.

The new study finds the down market has not increased home ownership opportunities for working families since housing prices are still high relative to incomes, and because of tight credit. However, the slowdown has allowed cities to catch up and enact policies that will better prepare them for the next market spurt. The authors note concern that a reduction in the pool of buyers for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) will reduce available funding for mixed-income projects. And the study finds that land speculation has driven up prices along planned transit corridors in both Charlotte and Minneapolis-St. Paul, noting that the timing of land use regulations and transit construction can have an impact on both speculation and development – a phenomenon the CTOD is exploring further in new research.

The report advocates that changes be made to the LIHTC program, and recommends that inclusionary zoning policies be made flexible so they can be applied in neighborhoods with strong housing markets and waived where it is not. The report notes land acquisition funds are emerging as an important tool to enable the purchase of land near transit while it’s still affordable, and recommends that resources for mixed-income housing be targeted to entire transit systems – including bus lines – in order to maximize opportunities for truly affordable lifestyles. Links to the executive summary and the full report appear below. “Realizing the Potential: Expanding Housing Opportunities Near Transit” (April 2007) and its executive summary are available here.